MIAMI — In a game filled with swings-and-misses, one whiff made the difference.
Dodgers right-hander Dustin May let a dribbler back to the mound go under his glove, opening the door for the Miami Marlins to score the decisive run in a 2-1 victory over the Dodgers Saturday night.
“Tonight, we ran into a buzzsaw in (Sandy) Alcantara,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said of the NL Cy Young Award frontrunner who struck out 10 in a complete-game six-hitter. “And we still were one hit away from winning the game.”
Locked in a 1-1 pitchers’ duel with Alcantara, May retired the first two batters in the bottom of the sixth then got Joey Wendle to make weak contact, bouncing a ball back towards the mound.
May charged, reached for the slowly-hit ball (59.3 mph off the bat) but let it roll under his glove. May threw his head back in exasperation and crumpled to his knees as Wendle reached first base safely.
And that was before he knew how the rest of the inning would go.
“I wish I could take the ground ball error back on my end,” May said. “But I can’t do that, so I’m just gonna look forward.
“In my head, I wanted to catch it before it bounced and I just didn’t get to it and then it went right under my glove.”
Jon Berti followed with more weak contact (a scalding 71.6 mph off the bat) that bounced over the mound. Second baseman Chris Taylor couldn’t field it cleanly and Berti reached base, further extending the inning.
Jerar Encarnacion lined the inning’s first clean base hit into left field to drive in Wendle with the go-ahead run.
“If he (May) fields his grounder, if CT fields a grounder, I don’t think we’d be having this conversation,” Roberts said after the loss.
Alcantara only made one mistake as well.
His was an 0-and-1 slider to Mookie Betts in the third inning that caught too much of the plate. Betts sent it 411 feet into the spot formerly occupied by the kitschy Home Run Sculpture.
The home run was Betts’ 30th of the season – two short of his career-high set in 2018 (his AL MVP season) and three short of matching Joc Pederson’s franchise record for a leadoff hitter. Betts is just the fourth player in MLB history to have multiple 30-homer seasons as a leadoff hitter, all this century – Alfonso Soriano, George Springer, Francisco Lindor and Betts.
Alcantara came into the game with a 14.79 career ERA in four starts against the Dodgers – including a six-runs-in-3 ⅔-inning bruising at Dodger Stadium last week. But the Dodgers couldn’t get to him Saturday.
“A lot of the same stuff we saw over there just located more,” Trea Turner said of Alcantara. “When we were at home, we got some traffic early. He gave us some free passes. He was a little bit more wild. Today, he hit his spots pretty well, got ahead of guys.
“He’s really good for a reason. He’s electric. He was sitting 99 (mph) for basically the whole game. Like I said, he was just hitting his spots. He’s got good stuff – three pitches, four pitches with two fastballs. You’ve got to tip your cap.”
Alcantara retired 16 of 17 Dodgers batters before back-to-back singles by Freddie Freeman and Will Smith put the tying run in scoring position with one out in the ninth. Max Muncy popped out before Justin Turner walked to load the bases with two outs.
Joey Gallo grounded out on Alcantara’s 111th pitch to end his fourth complete game of the season. No other MLB pitcher has more than two.
“Tonight he was certainly outstanding,” Roberts said. “I think tonight he used more secondary (pitches). I think there were a lot more changeups in there versus the lefties, more sliders in there versus the righties. He was more than 50 percent secondaries today (only 38 fastballs in 111 pitches) and when he did throw the fastball, it was pretty close to 100 (mph) all night and located. So tonight was a tough night.
“I thought Dustin matched him pitch for pitch through six innings.”
Alcantara has been building his Cy Young case all season. But May has certainly announced his presence with authority since returning from Tommy John surgery. In his first two starts, May has allowed just two runs on six hits and three walks while striking out 13 in 11 innings.
“I talked to him after the outing. If we could have banked his first two performances coming back from Tommy John, we would have banked what he’s done so far,” Roberts said. “For him to get through that sixth inning, manage some stress, get out of it, get the (Garrett) Cooper ground ball, I thought it was really positive. Built his pitch count up to 90 pitches through six. So I think Dustin’s doing everything and more than we could have hoped for.”
May bemoaned his execution on some pitches — “a lot of stuff was just kind of spinning out of hand or a yank.” His low strikeout total (four) after getting nine in five innings in his first start indicated that lack of precision.
“I feel like there’s a lot of steps forward I can take,” he said. “Execution could definitely be a lot better … just being able to put guys away.
“It was just one of those days. I just didn’t have the feel for it in the times that I needed to.”