Dustin May enjoyed the unique distinction in 2020 of both not making the Dodgers’ Opening Day roster and also starting the first game of the season.
May technically began the shortened season on the outside looking in, optioned on paper to the alternate training site. But he was recalled the very same day when Clayton Kershaw was placed on the injured list with back stiffness. At 22 years, 321 days old, May was the youngest Dodgers Opening Day starter since Fernando Valenzuela 37 years earlier.
On short notice, May allowed one run in 4⅓ innings, which fit a pattern. He stayed in the rotation all season, with the only hiccup getting hit by a comebacker on his foot and leaving a start on Sept. 10 after just one inning. May was rarely tasked with pitching deep into games, averaging exactly five innings in his 11 healthy starts, topping out at six innings three times.
May allowed more than two runs only one time in 12 games during the regular season, when he allowed three runs on September 16 against the Padres, of which only one run was earned.
Speaking of San Diego, May’s two signature moments were nearly identical, six days apart against Manny Machado, finishing him off with 99-mph sinkers with ridiculous movement, first on Aug. 4 then again on Aug. 10.
After the first of those strikeouts went viral, May told Alanna Rizzo on a SportsNet LA game broadcast, “It was kind of insane how many people were sending it to me, like I hadn’t already seen it.”
May during the season posted a 2.57 ERA, just the fourth Dodgers pitcher age 22 or younger to post a 165 ERA+ in at least 50 innings.
The kids can pitch
Though May’s relatively poor peripheral numbers produced a 4.62 FIP. His nine home runs were second-most on the staff, and despite a filthy sinker that averaged 97.9 mph, May didn’t miss many bats. Among the 81 pitchers with at least 50 innings in 2020, May’s 19.6-percent strikeout rate ranked 61st.
Two of May’s final three regular season outings were bulk relief efforts, setting the stage for a bullpen role in the playoffs. Though he started three of his seven postseason games, May was used strictly in short bursts in October, never throwing more than two innings at a time.
May’s playoff results were mixed, with a 4.22 ERA and 3.94 FIP, though his strikeout rate jumped to 27.7 percent with more targeted, brief outings. He earned the win with three strikeouts in two perfect innings in relief of a blister-addled Walker Buehler in Game 1 of the NLDS, May’s first career playoff victory.
Stats: 2.57 ERA (165 ERA+), 4.62 FIP, 56 IP, 44 K
Game of the year
After allowing runs in three straight short outings in the postseason, including three runs in Game 2 of the World Series, May recorded five outs in scoreless relief from the sixth to eighth innings of Game 5, helping preserve a Dodgers win in the penultimate game of the season. May retired five of six Rays in the game, striking out two.
May has one year, 59 days of major league service time, and a bright future ahead of him.