It was last spring that San Diego Padres players first promised their fans a postseason home game.
Now the Padres are guaranteed not just one, but two home playoff games after tying the best-of-five National League Division Series 1-1 with a 5-3 win Wednesday over the host Los Angeles Dodgers.
Game 3 is Friday night with right-hander Tony Gonsolin (2022 postseason debut; 16-1, 2.14 ERA regular season) starting for the Dodgers against Padres left-hander Blake Snell (0-0, 5.40 ERA postseason; 8-10, 3.38 ERA regular season).
While the Dodgers are 19-5 when Gonsolin starts this season — and 2-0 against the Padres — the All-Star’s two-inning appearance against Colorado on Oct. 3 was his only outing over the final seven weeks of the regular season due to a right forearm strain.
Snell, meanwhile, needs to regain the form he had at the end of the regular season. He posted a 2.19 ERA in 14 starts after the All-Star break, with 105 strikeouts in 78 innings. But he allowed two runs on four hits and six walks in just 3 1/3 innings in the Padres’ only wild-card round loss to the New York Mets.
Both bullpens could be active early. For the Dodgers, that includes another starter returning from injury in Dustin May, who was limited to six starts due to arm and lower back problems.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said May is available for up to four innings and 60 pitches. He didn’t say what the limit is on Gonsolin.
Roberts said he chose Gonsolin over Tyler Anderson for Game 3 because his full bullpen will be available after Thursday’s day off. Anderson will start Saturday night’s Game 4.
“Certainly there’s going to be some restrictions on Tony,” Roberts said Thursday. “I don’t know what they are right now. I know that he’s built up, upwards to 75 pitches. We’ll see how it goes with his stuff and effectiveness.
“I think the good thing about our bullpen coming off an off-day is that Dustin is back online. Andrew Heaney is back online, and the other guys are available. I don’t see it as a (Gonsolin-May) piggy-back situation. I see it as a collection of arms. Obviously less is more, but if we have to use six arms tomorrow, we’ll do that.
Meanwhile, Padres manager Bob Melvin said he expects Snell to bounce back from his start in New York.
“Yeah, you’re always going to have a tough one from time to time, and he’s pitched well here at home, too,” Melvin said. “He’s comfortable with the mound, with the environment. So, I think we’re going to see what we’ve seen, like I said, better part of the second half.”
Snell had a 3.56 ERA in 15 starts at home this season, with 108 strikeouts in 81 innings. He was 0-1 in three starts against the Dodgers with a 3.86 ERA, a 1.571 WHIP and 23 strikeouts in 14 innings. He also walked 10 Dodgers.
While with Tampa Bay in 2020, Snell started two games in the World Series against the Dodgers and held them to three runs on four hits and four walks with 18 strikeouts in 10 innings.
“Blake’s stuff is such that if he throws it down the middle, he’s still going to get outs,” Melvin said.
Gonsolin was 2-0 in two starts against the Padres this season with a 0.71 ERA and a 0.632 WHIP.
Both games in Los Angeles ended in 5-3 scores, and the losing team in both games felt they could have won.
“We’re 1-1 and, obviously, again, I thought we had a chance to win the second game,” Roberts said. “I think going now, if you look at it as a three-game series, I like where our offense is at. I really do.”