SAN FRANCISCO — The Dustin May who gave up 10 runs over 10 innings in his previous two starts was a cautionary tale about expecting too much from a pitcher coming off of Tommy John surgery.
But the Dustin May who pitched Friday night in San Francisco is the reason the Dodgers can’t help it.
May held the Giants hitless through five innings, retiring 14 of the 15 batters he faced as the Dodgers beat their rivals, 5-0.
“After the way the last two went, it was a good spot to come out and I feel good going into the next one,” May said, unaware that he had a no-hitter going while he was in the game.
“I wasn’t aware really until I came out. Then I heard them talking about it.”
The bid for a combined no-hitter ended with two outs in the sixth inning when the Giants’ No. 9 hitter, Luis Gonzalez, dribbled a ground ball at 53.9 mph toward second baseman Chris Taylor, beating it out for an infield single.
Vesia, Caleb Ferguson and Phil Bickford combined to close out a two-hit shutout for the Dodgers’ 99th win of the season and 13th in 17 games this year against a Giants team that interrupted their run of division titles last year.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said before the game that May would be capped at 75 to 80 pitches. He threw 69 in his five no-hit innings.
Then after the game, Roberts revealed that May’s start had been pushed back not just because of the off day Thursday or the insertion of Michael Grove as a sixth starter on Wednesday. May experienced some “arm soreness” after his start in San Diego last weekend and was given six days of rest before Friday’s start in San Francisco.
“He was pushed back because he just had a little soreness,” Roberts said. “We want to make sure we take care of him. Probably a little overly cautious.”
Not really given May had Tommy John surgery just about 16 months ago and has thrown a total of 47 innings with his new ligament (21 in the minors). But May’s electric stuff has raised expectations for what he can mean to the Dodgers in the postseason.
“I think they were high as far as ultimately where we’re going to get,” Roberts said. “But I know internally it was not something where we just thought he was going to dominate from the get-go. We have to appreciate what he’s gone through in the last, call it, 14, 16 months.
“From what I understand, the guys that come back from Tommy John the last thing that comes back is the command, the feel. Going through the process of rehab and now making five starts, he’s starting to find his way.”
May had been his own worst enemy in his previous two starts (both against the Padres), walking eight and fielding his position poorly. He was the more dynamic version of himself against the Giants.
The only baserunner May allowed was a walk of Brandon Crawford in the second inning. He was immediately erased when Thairo Estrada grounded into a double play. May struck out four of the next six Giants batters, finishing off Joey Bart and Gonzalez with 100-mph third strikes.
“I threw strikes. Plain and simple,” May said of the difference in Friday’s start. “I was over the plate. It’s a weird concept – throw strikes, you get outs.”
He got a little help with one of those outs when Joey Gallo made an outstanding running, sliding catch of Joc Pederson’s slicing drive into the left-field corner to end the first inning.
May is the fifth Dodgers starting pitcher to go at least five innings without giving up a hit this season, joining Clayton Kershaw, Tyler Anderson, Tony Gonsolin and Mitch White, each of whom did it twice.
And May wasn’t the first pitcher pulled from a no-hitter by Dodgers manager Dave Roberts … this year (Clayton Kershaw in April) … or at this stadium (Ross Stripling in April 2016).
“I think it’s a good night for Dustin, going out there pounding the zone, mixing all his pitches,” said Justin Turner, who had two doubles in the game, giving him a career-high 35 this season.
“We expect that out of all of our guys – to go out there and pound the zone, be aggressive, not walk guys. Obviously, that certainly helps the rotation if he’s going to go out and pitch like that.”
If May’s performance was a positive sign for the Dodgers’ postseason plans, so were the offensive contributions they got from the bottom of their lineup.
Chris Taylor and Cody Bellinger had back-to-back RBI singles in a three-run fourth inning against Giants starter Logan Webb. Bellinger stole second and scored on a two-out RBI single by Trea Turner. He also drew a walk, stole second and scored on a two-out RBI single by Freddie Freeman in the ninth.
Gallo drove in the Dodgers’ first run with a ground ball, cashing in a leadoff double by Max Muncy in the second inning.
Since allowing just one run in 14⅔ innings against the Dodgers in last year’s National League Division Series and holding them to one run over six innings in a July start at Dodger Stadium, Webb has given up 13 runs in 15 innings over three starts against the Dodgers.
“That fourth inning, considering who we were facing, was one of the best offensive innings we’ve had,” Roberts said of the three-run inning that drove Webb’s pitch count to 90 and ended his night early. “You’re talking about situational hitting. You’re talking about two-strike hitting. You’re talking about good baserunning. That inning right there did him in.
“That was as good as it gets. Absolutely. Against a very good starter.”
Joey Gallo got there just in time.
— MLB (@MLB) September 17, 2022