A pitcher’s path back from Tommy John surgery is rarely straight and points north. He usually zigs and zags, lunges forward and sinks back, with encouraging stretches of dominance offset by shaky moments of self-doubt.
That’s why Dodgers right-hander Dustin May’s rough start against the San Diego Padres on Friday night shouldn’t come as a surprise or cause much concern.
May’s stuff — notably a four-seam fastball that topped 100.3 mph, a lively 97 mph sinker and a knee-bending 86 mph curve — looked just as electric as in his first two strong starts of from 2021. elbow ligament replacement procedure.
But Maye was out of command, walking five and hitting two batters in five-plus innings, and hitting a pair of poker hits by Manny Machado and Brandon Drury for a two-run home run in the third inning of an eventual 7-1 Padres victory before. a crowd of 45,164 at Dodger Stadium.
“It’s only his third start with us, so to expect him to be lights out every time he takes the mound is unfair,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “I think with Tommy John, the main thing is that he continues to build, stay strong and the command starts coming.”
San Diego right-hander Yu Darvish gave up two hits in seven shutout innings, striking out nine and walking two, to improve to 12-7 with a 3.26 ERA to lead the Padres, who are battling for a wild-card spot, to their their fourth win in a row.
The Dodgers (90-41) have lost three straight games for the first time since June 10-12, when they were swept in San Francisco.
May walked Juan Soto and Machado with one out in the first, but got out of the game by getting Josh Bell to pop out to third and iced Jake Cronenworth with an 86-mph curveball that he scored on the outside corner to hit three.
May’s control issues hurt him in the third. After Soto took a 99.8 mph fastball inside for a walk, Machado belted his 25th homer of the season into the left field booth for a 2-0 San Diego lead.
Bell struck out, but Cronenworth was hit by a pitch, and Drury lined a line to left field for his 25th homer and a 4-0 lead. May retired the order in the fifth, but was pulled after hitting Drury in the helmet with an 84 mph curveball and walking Trent Grisham to open the sixth.
“With Dustin, things are there, it’s speed and everything is difficult,” Roberts said. “But if you don’t command it, then guys can time the speed. There were some good balls, but there were a lot of misses on all of his pitches.”
Right-hander Heath Hembree struck out Ha-Seong Kim and Austin Nola and was one strike away from getting out of the jam when he delivered a three-run homer to Jurickson Profar for a 7-0 Padres lead.
Two of the runs were charged for May, leaving the red-haired hurler with an unsightly finish line: five innings, four hits, six earned runs, five walks, five strikeouts.
“Just bad, I couldn’t throw strikes,” May said. “Everything is healthy. Everything was normal. I just hadn’t gotten over the plate.”
May, who fell to 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA in three starts, took no solace in the fact that he rebounded from a rough third inning to enter the sixth.
“Yeah, I got deeper into the outing,” said May, who threw 87 pitches, 53 of them for strikes, “but I was still losing.”
Dodgers shortstop Hanser Alberto pitched a scoreless inning, tying a major league record seven home runs by a non-hitter in a season.
The Dodgers bullpen received a potentially huge shot in the arm before the game when veteran right-hander Blake Treinen, out in mid-April with a shoulder injury, was activated.
The team will have five weeks to determine whether Treinen can regain the primary role he held in 2020 and 2021 — or possibly replace Craig Kimbrel — or whether he’ll be more of a complementary piece to Kimbrel, Evan Phillips, Chris Martin . and Alex Vecia.
Treinen was dominant in 2021, going 6-5 with a 1.99 ERA in 72 games. He had a 4.50 ERA in seven triple-A rehab outings, striking out nine and walking one in six innings, but his fastball was clocked between 92-95 mph, down from his usual 97.5 mph in 2021.
“I don’t know if it was adrenaline related,” Roberts said. “Talking to Blake, the coaching staff, he feels strong and he feels great.”
Roberts said Treinen will be used “in leverage, whatever that means,” but will enter games to start innings and won’t go multiple innings for now.
This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.