The Dodgers have perhaps their most fearsome lineup of their golden age, and are they betting their season on Dustin May?
The same Dustin May who lined up his first game in 15 months on Saturday night?
The same Dustin May who has only had 20 career starts?
That looks irresponsible.
That feels inconsiderate.
On the other hand, watch how he delivered a 7-0 win over the Miami Marlins and it’s clear why he’s factoring into the team’s postseason plans.
Over five scoreless innings, May threw four pitches at 99 mph or faster. Another dozen were 98mph-plus.
His pitches moved, his sinker swam this way, his slider broke this way.
The Marlins are a fourth-place team and their hitters didn’t stand a chance, hitting nine times against Sideshow’s bob-haired fireballer. Her only hit against him was a single to the right by Joey Wendle to start the game.
“In terms of raw talent,” said manager Dave Roberts, “he’s a game changer.”
The Dodgers don’t have another starter with as much upside potential. They don’t have another potential playoff starter quite so inexperienced, either.
Walker Buehler is scheduled to undergo late-season surgery to repair the flexor tendon in his right arm, giving the Dodgers a rotation that has plenty of depth but lacks an established ace.
In October, Julio Urías is expected to be the No. 1 starter. Tony Gonsolin should be a lock on the rotation. Clayton Kershaw should be too, provided he’s healthy.
Additionally, between May and Tyler Anderson, the Dodgers will choose to be the team’s fourth starter.
The rotation could require five pitchers in the National League Championship Series, where games 3 through 7 are played on consecutive days.
In other words, if the Dodgers decide to start Anderson in the NL Division Series in place of May, May could very well start a winner take-all Game 7 in the NLCS.
While Roberts said May was ready to appear relieved, the manager hinted he would rather use him as a starter, having just returned from reconstructive elbow surgery.
“I think the most important thing is Dustin’s health,” Roberts said. “Trying to regulate him on a predictable schedule gives him the best chance to perform and be healthy. That naturally leads to being a starter.”
Something else to consider: Anderson started his season with two appearances as the long reliever and did well in that role.
Roberts spoke cautiously when discussing his team’s plans for May.
He wouldn’t say the Dodgers are counting on May to start games for them in the postseason. He wouldn’t say they consider him an insurance policy for Kershaw.
He wouldn’t say they expect him to replace Buehler.
The manager didn’t have to say anything about it. The Dodgers already did, with what they were doing at the close — or, more specifically, with what they weren’t doing.
They didn’t exchange for an appetizer.
“I don’t really see it that way,” May said. “I mean, we have a lot of great guys on this team and a lot of guys pick each other up, so I’m just going to go out there and do my thing. There is no reason to put additional pressure on me.”
Roberts claimed the expected gains from Blake Treinen, Brusdar Graterol and other helpers were also factored into the Dodgers’ relative inactivity at the close. Robert’s instinct to protect May was understandable considering his major league experience was limited to the 1132/3 innings he’d played over the previous three seasons. May competed in the 2020 World Series but with mixed results.
“As you know, it certainly takes talent, but you also have to be in big league situations and navigate your way through big league batsmen to be a game changer,” Roberts said. “So I think in terms of talent alone and what he’s done in spurts at the big league level, it’s been fantastic. I just don’t want to be the one who has unreasonable expectations of him just because of his talent.”
What May’s return meant didn’t escape the notice of the Dodger Stadium crowd, who were unusually preoccupied with what was happening on the field.
This audience is used to watching the Dodgers pitching outsized bets, from using Urías as a part-time closer in their 2020 championship season to How Smart We Are plans backfired spectacularly last year.
The Dodgers have placed another bet, this one on whether May can do what he did to the Marlins on Saturday night against the New York Mets or the Atlanta Braves.
https://www.latimes.com/sports/dodgers/story/2022-08-20/dodgers-dustin-may-world-series-gamble-mlb Dustin May is Dodgers’ latest title gamble. Will it pay off?