Dustin May struggles with his command in Dodgers’ loss to Padres

The path of a pitcher returning from Tommy John surgery is rarely straight and points north. It usually zigzags back and forth, leaping forward and staggering back, with encouraging periods of dominance balanced by shaky moments of self-doubt.

For that reason, Dodgers right-hander Dustin May’s bumpy start against the San Diego Padres on Friday night shouldn’t come as a surprise or cause for concern.

May’s stuff — primarily a four-seam fastball with a top speed of 100.3 mph, a lively 97-mile sinker and a knee-buckling 86-mile turn — looked just as electric as it had on his first two strong starts since his year 2021 elbow ligament replacement procedure.

But May lacked command, walking five and hitting two batters in more than five innings, and he grooved a pair of sinkers that hit Manny Machado and Brandon Drury for two runs in the third inning of a subsequent 7-1 Padres win before 45,164 Spectators at Dodger Stadium.

“It’s only his third start with us, so it’s unfair to expect him to have the lights out every time he takes the mound,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “I think the most important thing with Tommy John is that he keeps building himself, stays strong and command should come.”

San Diego right-hander Yu Darvish gave up two hits in seven shutout innings, batting nine and walking two to improve to 12-7 with a 3.26 ERA and the Padres looking for a wildcard berth struggling to lead to fourth win in a row.

The Dodgers (90-41) have lost three straight games for the first time since June 10-12 when they were swept in San Francisco.

May led Juan Soto and Machado with an out in the first but escaped the backlog by getting Josh Bell to jump into third and freezing Jake Cronenworth with a knee-high 86 mph corner he set for third Punch at outside corner dotted.

Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Dustin May throws at the plate.

Dodgers starter Dustin May gave up six runs in five innings. He batted five but also walked five and gave up four hits — two of them home runs.

(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

May’s control issues hurt him in the third. After Soto took a 99.8-mile fastball inside for a one-out walk, Machado lined his 25th homer of the season into the pavilion at left field to give San Diego a 2-0 lead.

Bell struck out, but Cronenworth was hit by a throw, and Drury hit a full-count sinker for his 25th homer and a 4-0 lead in the left field pitches. May finished the team in fifth order but was pulled after hitting Drury in the helmet with an 84-mile turn and leading Trent Grisham to open the sixth.

“With Dustin, the stuff is there, it’s speed and everything is tough,” Roberts said. “But if you don’t order it, the boys can time the speed. There were some good breaking balls in there, but there was a lot of misfire on all his pitches.”

Right-hander Heath Hembree beat out Ha-Seong Kim and Austin Nola and was one shot away from escaping the jam when he gave up a three-run homer on Jurickson Profar to give the Padres a 7-0 lead.

The Padres' Manny Machado points to the crowd after hitting a two-run home run on Sept. 2, 2022.

The Padres’ Manny Machado waves to the crowd at Dodger Stadium after hitting a two-run home run in the third inning.

(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Two of the runs were attributed to May, leaving the red-headed slinger with an unsightly closing line: five innings, four hits, six runs earned, five walks, five strikeouts.

“Just bad all round, couldn’t throw any strikes,” May said. “Everything feels healthy. Everything was normal. I just wasn’t outside the box.”

May, who fell to 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA in three starts, found little solace in the fact that he was rebounding from his tough third inning to throw in the sixth.

“Yes, I went deeper into the outing,” said May, who threw 87 pitches, 53 of them for strikes, “but I still sucked.”

San Diego starter Yu Darvish delivers a pitch in the first inning.

San Diego starter Yu Darvish delivers a pitch in the first inning.

(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Dodgers infielder Hanser Alberto pitched a scoreless ninth pitcher and set a major league record with seven pitching appearances by a non-pitcher in a season.

The Dodgers’ bullpen took a potentially massive shot in the arm before the game when veteran right-hander Blake Treinen, who has been out since mid-April with a shoulder injury, was activated.

The team has five weeks to determine if Treinen can regain the primary setup role he held in 2020 and 2021 — or potentially replace shaky closer Craig Kimbrel — or if he’ll be more of an addition to Kimbrel, Evan Phillips and Will be Chris Martin and Alex Vesia.

Treinen was dominant in 2021, going 6-5 in 72 games with a 1.99 ERA. He had a 4.50 ERA in seven Triple-A rehab outings, hitting nine and going one in six innings, but his fastball was clocked between 92 and 95 mph, below his usual 97.5 mph in 2021 .

“I don’t know if that’s related to adrenaline,” Roberts said. “Talking to Blake, the training staff, makes him feel strong and great.”

Roberts said Treinen “will be used as leverage, whatever that means,” but he will be attending games to start innings and will not play multiple innings for the time being.

https://www.latimes.com/sports/dodgers/story/2022-09-02/dustin-may-dodgers-padres-recap-mlb Dustin May struggles with his command in Dodgers’ loss to Padres

Emma Bowman

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