The first man out of the dugout Friday night, Dodgers rookie Dustin May excitedly skipped to the mound to begin his big league career. When he walked off the rubber for the final time six innings later, on the hook for a defeat despite a solid major league debut, he felt a different set of conflicting emotions.
For the first five innings, May surrendered only a single unearned run. But he failed to escape the sixth, letting the San Diego Padres score three times to take the lead en route to their eventual 5-2 win in front of 50,780 at Dodger Stadium.
“I just left some pitches up, they hit them,” May said. “They weren’t down like they were earlier in the game. They hit the mistakes. Just got to improve.”
In recent years, new stars have continued to appearin the Dodgers’ ever-expanding universe of young talent. That nucleus — which has grown to include Alex Verdugo, Walker Buehler, Will Smith and several others — orbits around Cody Bellinger, who became the fastest player in club history to reach 100 home runs Friday.
For long stretches, May appeared to enter that stratosphere alongside them. The 21-year-old third-round pick in 2016, who had to block out trade rumors the last two years while climbing the Dodgers’ minor league ladder and becoming the franchise’s top pitching prospect according to MLB.com, kept the ball on the ground with high-velocity, high-spin-rate sinkers.
In the opening inning, May forced Manny Machado into an inning-ending double play.
He dialed up another one to end a laborious 29-pitch second, which saw a Padres run score with the aid of a throwing error by first baseman Tyler White, whose toss to second hit runner Eric Hosmer in the back.
Between the third and fifth, May mowed through the San Diego order. He retired all but two batters he faced, despite occasional problems putting away hitters (the Padres fouled off 17 of his 97 pitches).
“It was fun to see him keep his composure throughout that start,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “I thought the sinker was really good. I know he was excited.”
Meanwhile, Bellinger put the Dodgers in front by blasting a fourth-inning belt-high fastball off Padres starter Eric Lauer — the only runs he allowed — for a two-run shot.
Playing in his 401st game, he eclipse the 100-home run milestone in franchise-record time. Previous record-holder Mike Piazza needed 423 games to reach the century mark.
“It was nice to get a lead right there,” Bellinger said, “and give some padding for May in his debut.”
May couldn’t hold the edge, though. In the sixth, Wil Myers, Machado and Hosmer lined back-to-back-to-back singles to tie it before Josh Naylor launched a two-out double over center fielder Kristopher Negron and off the wall to drive in a pair of runs.
“I felt that last inning, his pitch count was right where it needed to be,” Roberts said. “I thought he had a good chance to get out of it.”
Instead, May’s first MLB start ended after 52/3 innings, nine hits, four runs (three earned), and three strikeouts. Despite the solid stat line, he shook his head and muttered into his mitt as he walked back to the dugout.
But once he reached the top step, he was greeted by a standing ovation from the crowd — which included his parents, to whom he gave the game ball, and 20 other friends and family members from his native Fort Worth — and congratulatory comments in the dugout.
“It’s one of those dreams come true,” said May, who according to Roberts is slated to start again next Tuesday against the St. Louis Cardinals. “It was surreal, an exciting feeling.”