May pitched seven scoreless innings, allowing only three hits and a walk, needing only 84 pitches. He finished off his final three frames with a flourish, ending the fifth, sixth, and seventh innings with strikeouts.
The game was scoreless until the bottom of the seventh, when Mookie Betts slammed a Drey Jameson slider into the left field pavilion for the game’s first run.
Vesia got the eighth inning against the bottom of Arizona’s lineup, though right-handed pinch-hitters proved to be the difference. Evan Longoria doubled to left, then Kyle Lewis homered to left for a D-backs advantage. Vesia last season allowed two home runs and a .310 slugging percentage in 148 plate appearances against right-handed batters.
The Dodgers also had Evan Phillips and Brusdar Graterol warming up in the eighth. Dave Roberts said the plan was for one of them to pitch the ninth inning, and that if the eighth inning got to switch-hitter Ketel Marte with the game in the balance, a right-handed pitcher would have been brought into face him.
“Unfortunately, it was moot once Lewis hit that homer,” Roberts said.
Speaking of going deep
Friday was May’s 26th career start, and the first time he’d ever pitched into the seventh, let alone completed it. More importantly, it’s his first start after his first healthy offseason in two years, after Tommy John surgery wiped out a season and a half in 2021 and 2022.
May’s emotion is usually quite evident on the field, like when he skipped off the mound after a fifth-inning strikeout, or when he yelled after finishing off the sixth.
“I feel like I always wear my heart on my shoulder on the mound,” May said.
Before the game, Roberts praised May’s attempt to harness that energy into consistency this spring.
“I don’t want to take that away. He’s an emotional guy, and that’s what makes him tick. He feeds off that,” Roberts said. “But there’s been a concerted effort to try and manage that a little better.”
Managing that emotion worked just fine for May, who left the game in a scoreless tie, though he was still the pitcher of record when Mookie Betts slammed a Drey Jameson slider into the left field pavilion for the game’s only run.
“I think he’s even better than he was before [the Tommy John surgery],” Roberts said. “Going through that rehab process, there’s a maturity that has to happen. That’s one component. I think the delivery is as consistent as I’ve ever seen it.”
Unable to cash in free passes
Despite only scoring once, the Dodgers made Arizona pitching work. Starter Merrill Kelly walked four, and was pulled with two on and two outs in the fourth after 74 pitches, one night after Zac Gallen was chased with two outs in the fifth inning.
But Jameson followed with four innings of his own, allowing only the home run to Betts, to get the D-backs into the eighth.
Dodgers hitters walked nine times on Friday, including three by Miguel Vargas. Walks by Vargas and James Outman with two outs in the eighth put the tying and go-ahead runs on base, but Miguel Rojas’ hard line drive was right at shortstop Nick Ahmed to extinguish the threat.
Los Angeles was hitless in seven at-bats with runners in scoring position.
Picking your spots
The Dodgers’ first stolen base attempt of the season was by David Peralta after singling in the second inning. He was originally called safe at second, but the call was overturned on replay review. To rub salt in the wound, Vargas immediately followed with a double to the center field wall, but the Dodgers did not score in the inning.
“That guy behind the plate has a plus arm, and I’m still not in the business of running into outs, regardless of how big the bases are,” Roberts said before Friday’s game. “We just don’t have the burners, the prototype base stealer, so I’m not going to run just to run.”
The Dodgers haven’t run often in recent seasons, tied for twelfth in steals since the start of 2020. But when they ran, the Dodgers were efficient, second in stolen base success rate over the last three years (81.7 percent). Outside of a few recent exceptions, the Dodgers have been more of a pick-your-spots running team.
Maybe Peralta, who was running on his own, was going with the element of surprise, since he stole one base last year and has four steals over the last four seasons.
Home runs: Mookie Betts (1); Kyle Lewis (1)
WP — Drey Jameson (1-0): 4 IP, 2 hits, 1 run, 3 walks, 5 strikeouts
LP — Alex Vesia (0-1): ⅔ IP, 3 hits, 2 runs
Sv — Andrew Chafin (1): 1 IP, zeroes
Saturday’s game starts an hour earlier than the first two (6:10 p.m.; SportsNet LA, MLB Network), with Clayton Kershaw starting for the Dodgers against longtime foe Madison Bumgarner. It’s the 11th meeting between the two pitchers, though the first since Bumgarner signed with the Arizona in 2020.