Gavin Stone pitches a shutout as Dodgers sweep the White Sox

There were no violent fist pumps, no primal screams. Nine times, Gavin Stone took the mound in Guaranteed Rate Field on Wednesday night, and eight times the Dodgers’ rookie right-hander walked back to the dugout with all the emotion of a guy throwing spring training batting practice.

The ninth time was a little different. Stone took a detour before heading to the dugout, striding toward the plate to exchange a high-five and hug with catcher Austin Barnes after completing the first shutout of his young career, a four-hitter with seven strikeouts and no walks to lead the Dodgers to a 4-0 victory over the Chicago White Sox.

Several Dodgers relievers patted him on the back and squeezed his shoulders as he was about to start an on-field television interview in an effort to get the stoic Stone to smile. They had about as much success as the White Sox did trying to score against the 25-year-old from Lake City, Ark.

“He’s a stone-cold killer,” Dodgers assistant pitching coach Connor McGuiness said, not even realizing his play on words. “He never shows emotion. That’s just his personality, the way he is. He stays the same dude. He just goes out and competes. Nothing fazes him. He’s an absolute beast.”

Stone had not taken the mound in the eighth inning of his first 18 starts, but as he finished off 1-2-3 innings in the seventh and eighth Wednesday night, there was no one warming in the bullpen.

“I just felt that it was sort of his game,” manager Dave Roberts said. “Just the way he was throwing the baseball, I think he was smelling it.”

Stone gave up a one-out single to Tommy Pham in the ninth but got Andrew Benintendi to fly out to center field and Luis Robert Jr. to ground out to shortstop to finish the first shutout by a Dodgers pitcher since Walker Buehler blanked the Arizona Diamondbacks on April 25, 2022.

It was the first shutout by a Dodgers rookie since Hyun-Jin Ryu blanked the Angels on May 28, 2013, and the first by a Dodgers rookie on the road since Hideo Nomo blanked the San Francisco Giants on Aug. 5, 1995.

“Spectacular,” Dodgers slugger Shohei Ohtani, who hit his National League-leading 25th home run in the first inning, said through an interpreter. “By the time you realize it, the inning’s over, and he just repeated that all night long.”

Stone threw 103 pitches, 73 for strikes. He threw six different pitches but leaned heavily on his 95-mph sinker, 88-mph slider and 87-mph changeup. He retired the side in order in the first, third, fourth, seventh and eighth innings. His only real trouble came in the second, when he retired three straight batters after Gavin Sheets’ leadoff double.

“That was cool,” said Stone, whose previous shutout came in his final college game for the University of Central Arkansas, when he threw a no-hitter against Southeastern Louisiana in the Southland Conference tournament opener in 2020. “Just getting the win for the club, we really needed it after using our bullpen yesterday.”

The Dodgers needed length from Stone after six relievers combined to throw seven shutout innings in Tuesday night’s 4-3 win over the White Sox. Not only did Stone throw seven innings for the fifth time in his last 11 starts, but he also gave the bullpen the night off.

“Man, he looked like the Bulldog tonight — that was really fun to watch,” Roberts said, invoking a comparison to Orel Hershiser. “It was the first complete game of his career, and there was still more in there. He wasn’t stressed at all. … He was in complete control. Just a dominant performance.”

Stone improved to 9-2 with a 2.73 earned-run average — the fifth-best mark in the league — in 15 starts and is 8-1 with a 1.90 ERA in his last 11 starts, 10 of them wins.

The Dodgers lost a leading NL rookie-of-the-year candidate when Yoshinobu Yamamoto went down with a shoulder injury in mid-June, but they have found another in Stone, who has emerged as the No. 2 starter behind Tyler Glasnow.

“He’s a rock in the rotation,” Roberts said. “I think certain pitchers, you get in tough games, tight ballgames, you have a lead, they find ways to lose games. But Gavin is a winner. He knows how to finish innings. He knows how to limit damage. He doesn’t run from the third time through [the order]. Every starting pitcher can’t say that.”

Ohtani gave the Dodgers another early lead with his second straight leadoff homer, driving a full-count, cut fastball from White Sox right-hander Erick Fedde 437 feet to right-center field. The 114-mph laser gave Ohtani an RBI in his 10th straight game, a franchise record.

The Dodgers broke the game open with three runs in the third, a rally that began with Kiké Hernández’s single to center, Barnes’ infield single and Ohtani’s four-pitch walk. Teoscar Hernández hit a sacrifice fly to right field, and Freddie Freeman roped a two-run double to right to push the lead to 4-0.

Miguel Rojas also doubled in the fourth and bunted for a single in the seventh, improving the team’s record to 24-0 in games in which the veteran infielder gets a hit.

Stone took it from there, using his sinker to bore in on the hands of right-handed hitters and away from left-handed hitters, a slider that “makes you respect the other side of the plate,” Barnes said, and a his changeup to keep batters off-balance.

“He’s got a great little mix,” Barnes said. “He’s really confident right now. He made it real easy today. … You can’t say enough about what Stoney has been doing for us — going deep in games, resetting the bullpen. He’s just been quiet, steady, going about his business.”

There was no unfinished business on Wednesday night, and Barnes was pleased that Roberts let Stone finish what he started.

“You get into a rhythm with a pitcher, he’s kind of out there doing his thing [and I’m] dancing with him a little,” Barnes said. “If he’s in position, you want him to finish. It’s not easy to throw a complete-game shutout. That’s a special moment, and I’m glad he was able to do it.”

Smith sits again

Will Smith was supposed to start all three games in the series, which was sandwiched around days off Sunday and Thursday, but Roberts held Smith out Wednesday to give the struggling catcher extra time to work with the hitting coaches on mechanical adjustments to his swing.

Smith, who also sat out one of two games against the Angels last weekend, is mired in a two-for-34 slump, a 10-game stretch in which he has hit .059 with a .381 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, one homer and four RBIs.

An All-Star last year, Smith was batting .295 with an .867 OPS on June 12. He‘s down to a .264 average and an .801 OPS.

“He’s in a little funk — I just don’t think he’s swinging the bat like he’s capable of,” Roberts said. “There are some balls that are hit hard, but there’s also some pitches that I feel that when he’s right, he makes a better move [on]. He feels good, so it’s not a physical thing, and it’s not a mental thing — he’s as mentally tough as they come.

“So that leads to the mechanical part. My thought was to take today and work through some things mechanically. We have a night game, so there’s more time to do that. … It’s a long season. I don’t expect him to be great or perfect all year. This is one of those times when I just don’t feel the need to push him.”

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