Dustin May had no problem scoring the first two strikes against the Arizona Diamondbacks players Wednesday night.
Putting them down, however, turned into a nightmare adventure for the Dodgers’ right-hander, who is still trying to find his way after Tommy John’s return.
May followed his best start to the season with one of his worst in a 6-1 loss at Dodger Stadium. He gave up five runs over four shaky innings, during which he also walked two batters, hit one and let seven men reach base for a two-strike count.
“I braced myself for failing, leaving guys and giving up on contact,” May said. “It was just bad overall.”
Before Wednesday, May seemed closer to a starting spot in the Dodgers’ playoff rotation thanks to an improvement in performance, including five no-hit innings against the San Francisco Giants last week, and because starting games might be easier for him surgically repaired elbow.
“As a young pitcher [coming off] Tommy John, back freshman year to give him as much opportunity to succeed in prep and routine, obviously that makes the most sense,” manager Dave Roberts said before the game. “Is it cemented? I would probably stop with that. But that is the most plausible.”
To be counted in the playoffs, however, the 25-year-old must avoid games like Wednesday’s.
In the first inning, May had lead-off hitter Daulton Varsho in a 2-and-2 count before setting him down on a low curveball and a high sinker.
With two outs and Varsho in second place after a stolen base, May had Christian Walker on a 1-and-2 hole only to throw a wide fastball and low turn that left the count full. He then threw an elevated sinker that Walker threw to the left for a battered RBI single.
A similar sequence played out in the third inning. Jake McCarthy was in a 1-and-2 count with two outs, but then put down some curveballs and a cutter to draw a walk. Moments later, he stole second place and then scored on an RBI single from Walker.
In the fourth inning, May’s night spiraled out of control.
After Carson Kelly doubled, Geraldo singled Perdomo with a 0-and-2 fastball and Varsho was hit with a 0-and-2 curveball to load the bases.
May attempted to start the next batter, Corbin Carroll, with an elevated cutter but missed his spot low and over the plate. Carroll smoked it and sent a double into the gap, who hit three runs to put it 5-0 before the Dodgers even had a hit (they finished with just three and hit a lone run on Mookie’s 35th home run beds).
“It’s just one of those games,” Roberts said. “Clean game. We just got beaten.”
Unlike some of May’s other blunders since returning to active duty, Wednesday’s troubles were less about command and more about conviction, with Roberts citing potential problems with pitch selection and attacking plan.
“Dustin isn’t just about stuff,” Roberts said, noting that even on a night when May’s near triple-digit speed was good, his tendency to “bully bully guys” with his fastball “becomes too predictable.”
“Just continuing to understand how to properly use your mix will prove beneficial, I think,” Roberts added. “Of course time is of the essence. It just takes a few more tries to clean up the stuff. But that’s up to all of us.”
In fact, the clock is ticking for May to get right.
He has flashed dominance at times this season but has now remained fickle six starts on his return.
He insisted he feels good physically and “is at the point now where I’m comfortable with everything,” he said. “I just have to go out and execute.”
For the Dodgers to count on him in the playoffs, do they need to see more consistency over the past few weeks?
“Absolutely,” Roberts said.
Each day during his pregame scrum, Roberts posts a familiar round of questions that address the status of the team’s half-dozen or so injured pitchers.
And each day, as the playoffs draw ever closer, its updates may change, bringing unexpectedly good news for some and increasingly worrying development for others.
Wednesday was no different.
After several days of saying right-hander Blake Treinen would be activated on Thursday, Roberts was forced to back down, revealing the assist’s bulky shoulder “just isn’t rebounding in the way we would have hoped” and that his status remains uncertain for October .
“He played tag today and we’ll see how he comes out of it,” Roberts said. “We just kick the can a bit.”
Good news mingled in Robert’s afternoon chat with reporters. He said right-hander Brusdar Graterol would instead be activated on Thursday, giving the helper an earlier-than-expected return from an elbow problem that had sidelined him since early September.
The Dodgers are hoping Tony Gonsolin (forearm) and Dave Price (wrist) are also closer to returning. Both face hitters on Thursday in what will be an especially important move for Gonsolin, who is running out of time to try and return as a full starter.
“I’ve already spoken to Tony, #1, about getting him pitching again,” Roberts said. “And once we get to that point, we’ll decide which role makes the most sense. So he’s open to anything.”
Roberts said if Thursday goes well for Gonsolin, he could start rehab as early as next week.
Still, Treinen’s recent setback was the most worrying news to emerge. Roberts said the right-hander — who was initially expected to be one of the Dodgers’ key assists — before suffering a limited shoulder injury in mid-April that has kept him from just five appearances all season — is still no guarantee he’ll be ready for October.
“I would say there’s still an ‘if,'” Roberts said.
https://www.latimes.com/sports/dodgers/story/2022-09-21/dodgers-diamondbacks-gamer-mlb-recap Dodgers fall flat again in loss to Diamondbacks