Dodgers’ Gavin Stone, among NL’s elite rookie pitchers, faces D-backs

While not the first name that comes to mind when breaking down the National League Rookie of the Year chase, Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander Gavin Stone continues to make his case.

Stone (9-2, 2.73 ERA) faces the visiting Arizona Diamondbacks in the middle game of a three-game series on Wednesday.

While Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander Paul Skenes has jumped to the front of the rookie list, and Chicago Cubs left-hander Shota Imanaga remains highly regarded, Stone entered the conversation by going 4-0 with a 1.97 ERA in five starts. Going back one more start, Stone is 5-0 with a 1.62 ERA since May 28.

“It’s the same stuff he’s been doing, really: sinking the ball,” Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes said after Stone fired a complete game four-hit shutout last week against the Chicago White Sox. “It’s just really uncomfortable (of an at-bat). He’s throwing the ball hard, it’s boring in on their hands. Then the slider makes you respect the other side of the plate.”

Stone made one start against the Diamondbacks this season (May 21) and he ended up with one of his two losses, allowing four runs on eight hits over six innings.

In the shadows of a star-studded roster, Stone has plenty of places to look for support. Shohei Ohtani hit a towering, go-ahead, seventh-inning home run Tuesday, while Freddie Freeman had an RBI double in the ninth and Teoscar Hernandez ended the game with an RBI single for a 6-5 victory over the Diamondbacks in the series opener.

Arizona was leaning toward giving 21-year-old right-hander Cristian Mena the start Wednesday in what would be his big-league debut.

Acquired by Arizona in a trade with the Chicago White Sox in February, Mena made 16 starts with Triple-A Reno and has 20 career starts in Triple-A. Mena was a spring training surprise due to a spike in his velocity and a four-pitch repertoire praised by manager Torey Lovullo.

In his time at Triple-A since joining the Diamondbacks, Mena had 89 strikeouts in 82 2/3 innings. Arizona traded 5-foot-6 outfielder Dominic Fletcher to the White Sox in the deal. Fletcher is batting .173 this season and is on the injured list with a shoulder injury.

Mena is filling the spot in the rotation vacated when left-hander Jordan Montgomery went back on the injured list. Mena was with the Diamondbacks in Los Angeles on Tuesday.

“It’s probably one of those really terrible secrets that we’re trying to keep from everybody,” Lovullo said with a smile Tuesday night. “If that does come up, he deserves the opportunity.”

The Diamondbacks used left-hander Joe Mantiply as an opener on Tuesday and he allowed one run in 2/3 of an inning.

Arizona received yet another home run from Christian Walker against the Dodgers in the loss. His two-run shot in the fourth inning was his fifth home run in seven games against Los Angeles this season. His 23 career homers against the Dodgers are second to his 24 against the Colorado Rockies.

“(Walker) seems to always get us at some point,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.

Since the Diamondbacks pulled off a three-game sweep over the Dodgers in last year’s NL Division Series, Los Angeles is 4-3 against its division rival this season.

–Field Level Media