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Dodgers pitcher Dustin May is showing off his potential

Dodgers pitcher Dustin May tries to catch a comeback shot hit by San Diego Padres' Jurickson Profar during the fifth inning.
Dodgers pitcher Dustin May tries to catch a comeback shot hit by San Diego Padres’ Jurickson Profar during the fifth inning at Dodger Stadium.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Dustin May’s immense potential was on display with three pitches Monday in the Dodgers’ 2-1 loss to the San Diego Padres.

The first was a 99-mph two-seam fastball to Manny Machado, a four-time All-Star, in the first inning. The ball left May’s right hand looking like it would sail over the heart of the plate before it unfairly darted inside. All Machado could do was offer a defensive swing for strike three to end the inning. It was a repeat of the cartoonish pitch May threw to Machado last week that went viral. May somehow did it again.

“It’s pretty impressive what Dustin can make a baseball do,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said before Monday’s game. “It’s going to be fun and it’s exciting to watch Dustin mature as a big-league ballplayer. And I expect many more throws like that in his future.”

The next two pitches surfaced in the third inning against shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., arguably the best player in the majors this season. The second was an 87-mph slider down the middle. Tatis Jr. swung, fouled the pitch back, and fell on his backside. A slider over the plate is a mistake for most pitchers. It was strike two for May.

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Despite the Padres entering the game with a precarious pitching plan, the Dodgers fail to muster little offense to support Dustin May in a 2-1 loss.

The third pitch came later in the at-bat: a better located 87-mph slider that spun down and away, out of the strike zone. Tatis flailed and whiffed for a strikeout, stranding a runner at third base. May let loose a fist pump.

It was May’s fourth start of the season, the second opposite the potent Padres in less than a week, and the eighth of his budding big-league career.

Last Tuesday, the lanky right-hander totaled a career-high eight strikeouts in six innings in San Diego. On Monday, the 22-year-old rookie held the Padres scoreless for four innings before Austin Hedges, a .091 hitter to that point, whacked a cutter over the center-field wall. The Padres added another run in the sixth inning on Eric Hosmer’s two-out RBI bloop single before May could escape.

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He gave up the two runs and five hits across six innings. He compiled two walks and two strikeouts. He threw 83 pitches. He lowered his earned-run average to 2.75 on the season.

“I thought it was a pretty good outing overall,” May said, “but they just hit the mistakes when I threw them.”

The Dodgers didn’t plan on May having in their starting rotation yet. May was only thrust into action only when Clayton Kershaw was scratched from his opening day start. Kershaw has since come off the injured list to replace Alex Wood in the rotation.

Knowing he’s getting the ball every fifth day — for now — has given May a sense of comfort. It’s evident in his mound presence. He’s dotted performances with high energy. He bounces around the mound. He finishes some pitches with his signature high leg kick. As soon as Hedges connected on his home run Monday, he jumped around and crouched all the way down to watch it. He’s letting loose.

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“It takes some of the stress off, trying to press and get outs,” May said. “I can just go out and compete and do my thing. I have a lot of energy on the mound and I feel like whenever I can let that flow is when I’m at my best.”

Wood was placed on the injured list with shoulder inflammation after logging just three innings in his first outing. The left-hander continued progressing toward a return Monday when he threw a 30-pitch bullpen session. He is tentatively scheduled to pitch in a simulated game Thursday. The following step could be activation.

In the wake of coronavirus outbreaks that have interrupted the season for three teams, MLB is considering whether to move the postseason into a bubble.

Assuming the current starters remain healthy —a precarious assumption considering the inflated number of injuries to pitchers across the majors this season after short training camps — the Dodgers would have to make a decision without an obvious answer.

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Wood, an established veteran, would seemingly return to the rotation and force someone else off. Would it be May? Julio Urías? Ross Stripling? The Dodgers would have a choice to make. May continued Monday making his case to stick around while the Dodgers’ offense went silent.

“Dustin’s doing nothing but show his value to our ball club,” Roberts said. “He’s still establishing himself as a big-league pitcher and understanding how to navigate lineups. But obviously there’s [four] starts and he’s been very good for us. When that time comes, we’ll continue to discuss it, but Dustin’s certainly doing everything he can.”


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