Padres 8, Dodgers 7: Bullpen falters, offense leaves 18 men on base to spoil May’s start

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Forcing Joe Musgrove from the game after just three innings and 77 pitches, the Dodgers truthfully should have won Sunday night’s game without too much trouble. Especially when you consider Dustin May gave them 6 innings of one-run ball and the Padres were forced to piece together eight innings with seven pitchers.

Breaking through for a five-run 6th, Los Angeles took control with a six-run lead as it turned the game over to its own bullpen needing nine outs to split the series with the Padres. Obviously it failed to do so and the game eventually landed in extra innings, the second time the two teams did so in 10 days.

Coming down to Clayton Kershaw and DJ Peters striking out with the bases loaded in the 10th, and Garrett Cleavinger making his Dodgers debut in the 11th, the Padres took an 8-7 game and a series victory at Dodger Stadium.

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Jimmy Nelson impressively held the Padres scoreless in the 10th after allowing a pair of runs in the 9th, striking out Fernando Tatis Jr. with two men on to end the inning and giving the Dodgers the opportunity to win it in the bottom of the inning.

Justin Turner grounded out to move Corey Seager up to third to open the 10th, but the Padres intelligently walked both Max Muncy (his 5th walk of the game) and Chris Taylor to load the bases for Kershaw, who was forced to bat after the Dodgers burned through their bench. While Tim Hill temporarily teased a pinch-hitting pitcher #Shrimp with a pair of balls, Kershaw eventually struck out. Peters, still looking for his first career hit, worked a full count before swinging at a high fastball to end the inning.

Cleavinger and his 2/3 career innings in the majors entered in the 11th, walking Trent Grisham to open the inning. A double steal brought Tatis Jr. to third and Eric Hosmer put the Padres ahead with a sacrifice fly.

Having left the bases loaded again in the 10th — after also doing so in the 2nd, 3rd and 5th as well — a lead-off walk for Austin Barnes in the 11th ended with more runners stranded. Edwin Rios, Mookie Betts and Seager left two more on and the bats wrapped up the day with 18 men left on base.

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While the bullpen’s performance and the offense’s countless missed opportunities dominated the second half of the game, I don’t think how impressive May was yet again should be forgotten. The ESPN broadcast you should have been watching spent a fair amount of time discussing the new break on May’s curve. And rightfully so.

Entering the day around 43% sinker, 20% curve, 19% cutter and 18% four-seamer, May pretty much followed that through three innings. Sitting down the first nine batters, May struck out four while generating five ground balls (all at 80 mph or lower). Three of his first four strikeouts came with the curve, the only exception a four-pitch at-bat against Musgrove that included only sinkers.

Unfortunately, the first ball the Padres hit in the air left the park as Tatis Jr.’s torrid run in the series continued with a homer to right-center. May left a sinker over the plate as he appeared to be trying to keep the 2-2 pitch inside, and Tatis Jr. made him pay as he cut the lead down to 2-1.

Fortunately, a pissed off May responded by striking out the next three batters looking on three different pitches. Grisham went down on a 99 mph four-seamer, Manny Machado followed on a 98 mph sinker and Hosmer finished a three-pitch at-bat watching a curve catching the outside corner.

Jake Cronenworth singled to open the 5th and stole second, but May avoided any trouble by retiring the next three. It seemed like he leaned on his curve even more so, throwing eight across a 14-pitch stretch. One of them got Jurickson Profar swinging for strikeout No. 8, and after three straight curves to Victor Caratini, May froze him with a 99 mph fastball to end the inning (and set a new career-high for strikeouts in a game).

Facing the order for the third time, May walked his first batter after striking out Ha-Seong Kim to open the inning. With Tatis Jr. on second after a steal, Grisham grounded out to second after a six-pitch at-bat. Sitting at 88 pitches, May faced Machado with the tying run standing at third. Opening with a sinker inside, May’s first pitch was fouled down the left-field line. Missing outside with a curve and a sinker, May came back with a curve breaking back over the plate to even the count at 2-2. Another low curve got Machado reaching to foul it off, before a sinker up and in harmlessly landed in Seager’s glove at short to end the inning.

Finishing his day at 93 pitches, May really leaned on his curve during his final three innings (21 curves to 18 sinkers). Throwing 29 curves to 31 sinkers in total, May essentially used the two evenly while supplementing with the cutter and four-seamer as normal. In addition to his 10 Ks, May recorded six ground outs and just two outs in the air. With 24 called strikes and 13 Whiffs, May finished with 61 strikes on his 93 pitches and just the three baserunners.

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While May was rolling through most of his outing, the Dodgers’ offense struggled to cash in early on while forcing Musgrove to work hard in his brief start.

After a 1-2-3 1st inning against Musgrove, the Dodgers put the first three on in the 2nd to strike for one run. Muncy drew a 6-pitch walk against Musgrove after getting ahead 3-0, with the latter’s cutter missing the corner three straight times. Taylor’s 76.6 mph grounder bounced off of Tatis Jr. one pitch later, and Matt Beaty slid his knee into a slider when he was down 0-2 to Musgrove. After Luke Raley struck out, Barnes slapped a slider breaking out of the zone to right field to score Muncy on the eighth pitch of his at-bat.

Although that was the end of the scoring in the 2nd, Seager sent a ball down the first-base line to open the 3rd with a triple before Turner brought him home with a single to left just two pitches later to make it 2-1.

Another walk to Muncy and another HBP for Beaty (a much more deserved one this time) loaded the bases for Raley again, but he struck out on a curve. Barnes ended the 3rd with a grounder to short, while Musgrove reached his aforementioned 77 pitches through three innings and ended his day.

Following Tatis Jr’s homer, Craig Stammen took over in the 4th and retired the Dodgers in order before yet another bases loaded situation came to an end at the back half of the order in the 5th. If you could believe it, Muncy walked with one away before Beaty reached for the third time in the game with a walk of his own. Another slider breaking inside allowed Raley to take one off the leg as Beaty did earlier, loading the bases for Barnes, who struck out on Stammen’s curve.

With May’s day done after 6, Sheldon Neuse stepped to the plate as a pinch hitter and greeted Nick Ramirez with a 400-foot homer to center for a 3-1 lead.

Ramirez really struggled in his brief appearance, as Betts sent the first pitch of his at-bat 103 mph at Tatis Jr. for an infield single and Seager followed two pitches later with a single of his own. Betts intelligently moved to third on the hit, and scored on Turner’s sac fly on the next at-bat.

Muncy did what he does, walking for the fourth time in the game (while seeing 23 pitches in his first four PAs), before Taylor got ahead 3-0 himself. Rather than taking a walk to load the bases for the back half of the lineup again, Taylor simply put the Dodgers ahead 7-1.

That would be all the scoring through the first nine innings, as Austin Adams, Drew Pomeranz and Emilio Pagan held the Dodgers scoreless in the 7th, 8th and 9th while the Los Angeles bullpen sent the game to extra innings as the Padres scored two apiece in the those three innings.

Leading 7-1 with May’s day complete, David Price entered as the bullpen simply needed to eat up the final three innings. Two quick singles put runners at first and second just three pitches into Price’s outing before Jorge Mateo went down swinging against a changeup. Another changeup generated the ball Price needed to escape the inning on a possible double play, but Neuse bobbled the grounder from Profar. Naturally, Caratini singled in two (on another change) before a pinch hitting Wil Myers rolled yet another changeup to Turner for the 5-4-3 double play.

Update: It seemed a little weird that Price threw just 17 pitches, even with the two quick singles. Well, here’s a little bit on why.

Brusdar Graterol entered to start the 8th for his second game of the season and second time facing the Padres on a Sunday in as many weeks. A five-pitch walk to Tatis Jr. wasn’t the best start, and after Grisham flied out and Machado singled to center, Graterol exited for Victor Gonzalez and his 10th appearance this year.

Immediately giving up a single through the hole on the right side, Gonzalez got ahead of Cronenworth 1-2 before running the count full. Because this game (and recap) couldn’t just be simple, the 3-2 sinker missed the plate to load the bases for Mateo. Ahead on another better, Gonzalez’s 0-2 slider rolled up the middle for a force at second, but a run came home as Mateo easily beat out the turn from Seager. With the lead now down to 7-5, Gonzalez struck out Profar with a slider in the dirt to finally end the 8th.

Nelson took the 9th as the Dodgers looked to avoid using Scott Alexander and Kenley Jansen. And as you might be able to guess, the Padres put the leadoff man on for the third straight inning. A 52.5 mph floater, with a .230 xBA, by Caratini dropped in, bringing Tatis Jr. to the plate as the tying run with one away. A pair of curves away put Nelson ahead 1-2, but a third curve hung low over the plate and Tatis Jr. sent it to left for a single. Grisham sent another ball to left side for a single, bringing home Caratini and putting Tatis Jr. on third.

Another first-pitch swing by Machado tied the game at 7-7 as the ball rolled right up the middle, with the Dodgers leaving Nelson on the mound to finish the inning. A walk to Hosmer loaded the bases, but a weak fly ball by Cronenworth and a strikeout against Mateo allowed Nelson to escape with just the two runs home.

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The Dodgers remain at home on Monday as the Reds arrive in Los Angeles for a three-game series. Riding a seven-game losing streak, the Reds were swept by the D-backs and Cardinals over the past week and are currently last in the NL Central at 9-12.

Tyler Mahle (1.74 ERA/2.80 FIP/2.91 SIERA) will face Julio Urias (2.81 ERA/3.06 FIP/3.39 SIERA) at 7:10 p.m. PT Monday night. Urias is coming off of his 11-strikeout, 7-inning performance in Seattle, while Mahle threw 6 2/3 shutout innings against the D-backs, striking out nine, before the Reds’ bullpen allowed eight runs in the 9th and 10th innings of Wednesday’s game.

About Cody Bashore

Cody Bashore is a lifelong Dodger fan originally from Carpinteria, California (about 80 miles north of Dodger Stadium along the coast). He left California to attend Northern Arizona University in 2011, and has lived in Arizona full-time since he graduated in 2014 with a journalism degree. He now works for the university’s athletics department after spending seven years with the local newspaper.