Dustin May struck out a career-high 10 batters, but that seemed like ages ago Sunday night at Dodger Stadium inexplicably became a battle of the bullpens, and an extra-inning one at that. The Dodgers blew a six-run lead and lost 8-7 in 11 innings, giving the Padres three wins in four games during the weekend series at Dodger Stadium.
On a night Kenley Jansen, Blake Treinen, and Scott Alexander weren’t available after recent usage, the Dodgers turned a 7-1 lead over to different parts of their bullpen, and nothing seemed to go right.
David Price, pitching in his first game in six days, allowed three hits and two runs, aided by an error on Sheldon Neuse. He might have pitched longer than one inning, but suffered a hamstring strain, and will be evaluated on Monday to see if a roster move is needed.
In the eighth, Brusdar Graterol made his first appearance in a week, and retired only one of his three batters faced. The other two scored. “Brusdar didn’t execute his pitches,” Dave Roberts said.
That left the ninth inning for Jimmy Nelson, trying for his first career save. Four singles by in his first five batters faced squashed that idea, bringing home the tying runs. A walk to Eric Hosmer loaded the bases with one out, but Nelson recovered to get Jake Cronenworth to fly out, and struck out Jorge Matero to keep the game tied.
After a 25-pitch ninth, Nelson remained in for the 10th, and worked around a walk to strand the free runner, finishing the frame with a strikeout of Fernando Tatis Jr., no small feat in an amazing weekend for the Padres shortstop.
Tatis was the runner on second to start the 11th inning, then took third on a double steal against rookie Garrett Cleavinger, making his Dodgers debut. Eric Hosmer drove him in with a sacrifice fly, giving the Padres their first lead of the night.
“We just didn’t play good baseball. We didn’t play clean baseball,” Roberts said. “We gave up runs late. Dustin had a fantastic outing, and we didn’t pitch well in the back end of the game.”
A wager paid off
Corey Seager was the free runner to start the 10th inning, and moved to third base on a ground out by Justin Turner. Then, with the Dodgers out of position players, Padres manager Jayce Tingler intentionally walked Max Muncy and Chris Taylor, loading the bases with one out.
Clayton Kershaw was summoned to pinch hit, and though the at-bat lasted six pitches, it ended with a strikeout, making Kershaw 0-for-4 as a pinch hitter in his career (with two sacrifice bunts).
“They walked me and Muncy to get to our best hitter, batting average-wise,” joked Taylor, referring to Kershaw entering Sunday 3-for-7 (.429).
But Tim Hill still had one out to get, and struck out rookie DJ Peters — in his third day in the majors — to end the threat and send the game to the 11th, making Tingler’s strategy pay off.
The bugaboo with May coming into this season was that despite his otherworldly stuff he didn’t miss enough bats. It’s understandable for someone who doesn’t even turn 24 until September, but the prevailing thought throughout spring training was if May could harness his secondary pitches, it would make both of his fastballs — his sinker entered Sunday averaging 97.8 mph, and his four-seamer averaged 98.5 mph — and his overall repertoire more effective.
The weapon of choice for May against the Padres was his curveball, with which he finished five of his 10 strikeouts. San Diego was hitless in eight at-bats that ended with May’s curve on Sunday, and opposing batters against that pitch this season are 0-for-21 with 14 strikeouts.
May struck out 16 with the curveball all last season.
Heading into this season, May’s career high was eight strikeouts. But so far this year, through four starts, May is averaging eight strikeouts per game. That gives him a 37.2-percent strikeout rate, good for 11th in MLB among pitchers with at least 20 innings.
In 2020, May’s 19.6-percent K rate ranked 61st among the 81 pitchers with at least 50 innings.
May only allowed two hits and a walk, the latter which was issued to Fernando Tatis Jr., a completely understandable outcome since one of the hits earlier was a Tatis home run, a rite of passage for Dodgers pitchers this weekend. Tatis has five home runs in the series, all solo shots, and he’s the first visiting player with five home runs in a three-game span at Dodger Stadium, per Sarah Langs of MLB.com.
Before the dam burst
Corey Seager started the third-inning rally with a leadoff triple to right field, a rarity at home. It was the first triple in 10 games at Dodger Stadium this season, compared to five triples (by both teams combined) in 12 Dodgers road games. In 2019-20, there were 16 triples in 111 regular season games at Dodger Stadium, and 41 triples in 111 road games.
Justin Turner singled home Seager, then the Dodgers loaded the bases for the second consecutive inning against Joe Musgrove. Though they managed to only plate single runs in both frames, it was enough to chase Musgrove after 77 pitches in three innings.
The Dodgers loaded the bases three times in the first five innings, but managed to garner just one hit in seven at-bats in those situations, with four strikeouts. That’s why, despite all those baserunners they still only had two runs to that point. It was good enough for a lead, thanks to May’s great pitching, but then the Dodgers were able to break through in the sixth.
Sheldon Neuse started things off batting for May, and hitting his second home run of the week, the Dodgers’ first pinch-hit home run of the season one day after collecting their first two pinch hits of the year. The rallies continued against lefty Nick Ramirez in the frame, but rather than let the bases get loaded again, Chris Taylor did the heavy lifting to clear them with a three-run homer to break the game open. Or so they thought.
The Dodgers this season have scored only eight runs in 36⅔ innings against San Diego starting pitchers in seven games. But they’ve tallied 22 runs in 30⅓, innings versus the Padres bullpen.
“There were so many missed opportunities, but we had some good moments too,” Taylor said. “We couldn’t shut the door when we needed to.”
- Max Muncy walked five times, tying a Dodgers record, set three other times, the last by Greg Brock in 1983.
- Taylor added a triple in the eighth inning, giving the Dodgers their first two-triple game at home since July 3, 2018.
- Matt Beaty was hit by a pitch twice Sunday, the first Dodger to be hit twice in a game since Beaty in Game 3 of the 2020 NLCS.
- Tatis also stole two bases Sunday, making him the first player with at least five home runs and at least two stolen bases (he had three) in a single road series in MLB history, per Stats Perform.
Home runs: Sheldon Neuse (2), Chris Taylor (4); Fernando Tatis Jr. (7)
WP — Tim Hill (1-2): 1 IP, 1 unearned run, 2 walks, 2 strikeouts
LP — Garrett Cleavinger (0-1): 1 IP, 1 unearned run, 1 walk, 1 strikeout
Sv — Mark Melancon (8): 1 IP, 1 walk, 1 strikeout
The Dodgers remain home to host a slumping Reds team that comes to Los Angeles having lost seven straight games. Julio Urías starts Monday’s opener (7:10 p.m.; SportsNet LA, MLB Network), facing Tyler Mahle.