LOS ANGELES – Dustin May turns 23 on Sunday. He made eight starts as a 22-year-old and did not allow more than two earned runs in any of them. The last Dodger pitcher so young with a streak so long was Fernando Valenzuela in 1981.
May’s consistency was not rewarded with a victory Friday; the Dodgers needed three home runs in the eighth inning to come from behind to beat the Colorado Rockies 10-6. It had already been rewarded with something bigger: a spot in the starting rotation for the duration of the 2020 season, however long it lasts.
May threw 5 2/3 innings and allowed two runs. He walked one batter and struck out five. May left after his 84th pitch with the Dodgers down a run.
The game was tied 2-2 in the seventh inning when Will Smith hit a two-run homer off Mychal Givens.
After a grand slam by Kevin Pillar put the Rockies ahead 6-5 in the top of the eighth inning, the Dodgers pulled ahead on home runs by AJ Pollock, Joc Pederson and Mookie Betts in the bottom of the eighth.
“I’d be hard-pressed to find a team that’s equipped to do what we do,” Manager Dave Roberts said. “It started with Dustin tonight. I thought he was outstanding. The ‘pen has been good all year. Today it just wasn’t as sharp. For our guys on offense to pick them up, that’s what a good team does. It was exciting to be a part of.”
Max Muncy also hit a home run for the Dodgers, who have beaten the Rockies in 24 of their last 28 meetings. The win allowed the Dodgers (30-10) to maintain their six-game lead over the second-place Padres (24-16) in the National League West.
Only two teams in franchise history (1955 and 1977) began a season 30-10 before this year.
Rockies starter Antonio Senzatela made the Dodgers work for 5 1/3 innings. After Muncy’s solo home run in the first inning, the Dodgers didn’t score again until Corey Seager drove in Betts with a sixth-inning single.
The Dodgers collected 15 hits, including their five home runs. Most of the damage came against the Rockies’ bullpen. Givens, Tyler Kinley, Carlos Estevez (1-1) and Jeff Hoffman combined to record eight outs and allow eight runs.
Caleb Ferguson (2-0) figured to take the loss after allowing the go-ahead grand slam to Pillar. Instead, he was credited with the victory. Kenley Jansen pitched a scoreless ninth inning in a non-save situation.
Technically, May lost his prospect status a month ago. A more realistic graduation date might have been Monday, the day of baseball’s trade deadline. When the Dodgers dealt Ross Stripling to the Blue Jays for two prospects, it sent a clear signal to May and fellow rookie Tony Gonsolin, who starts Saturday: in a World-Series-or-bust season, their time was now.
“I think it does” send that signal, Roberts said, “but I hope there isn’t any change in mindset or preparation. Because certainly, the organization, we think a lot of those guys, what they’ve done and what they’re going to do for us. But how they’ve gone about things shouldn’t change at all.”
It seems like ages ago when May was slated to begin the season at the Dodgers’ alternate site. When Clayton Kershaw was placed on the injured list less than 24 hours before his scheduled Opening Day start, May took the ball instead. That began his streak of allowing two runs or fewer in every start. He has a 2.88 earned-run average this season, third among qualified National League rookies.
Against the Rockies, May consistently touched 100 mph with his sinker. He trusted his darting breaking ball, a hybrid of a slider and a curve, in a variety of counts. Sometimes he threw the pitch with the full force of his right arm. Other times, May let up.
On this day, those two pitches carried most of the weight. The solo home runs May allowed to Raimel Tapia and Sam Hilliard came off a four-seam fastball and a cut fastball, respectively.
“That was the biggest step forward that I’ve taken with my breaking ball in a long time,” May said. “That’s one of the best feelings I’ve had on the mound, being able to land the breaking ball.”
Betts went 3 for 5 and collected the 500th RBI of his career when he hit a two-run homer off Hoffman to cap the Dodgers’ scoring. His 13 home runs are one behind Fernando Tatís Jr. for the National League lead.
Seager, Pollock, Smith and Cody Bellinger collected two hits apiece.
The game was delayed briefly in the second inning after a drone was spotted flying above Dodger Stadium. Players were waved off the field and into their respective dugouts. Play resumed a few minutes later, when the drone flew up and out of sight beyond the center field wall. It’s the third time a major league game has been delayed by an overhead drone this week.
“It seems like a lot of games are getting stopped by drones now,” Pollock said.