Dodgers pitcher Dustin May only walked two of the 22 hitters he faced on Wednesday night, so it would be easy to assume command and control weren't his big issues in his four-inning, five-run clunker.
But if you dig in a little deeper, it's easy to see that a lot of the hits May allowed — and he allowed seven, to go along with the two walks and one hit better — were the result of command issues.
Three of the five hitters May faced in the first inning got into full counts, which seemed to set the tone for the big righty struggling to get ahead of hitters. He threw at least six pitches to five of the 22 hitters, but he also threw just one or two to six hitters, including two of the three run-scoring hits.
Simply put, May struggled to get ahead, which made his early-count pitches more predictable and therefore easier to hit. As J.P. Hoornstra writes in the Orange County Register, L.A. manager Dave Roberts saw that, too.
“It’s not just about stuff,” he said. “It’s something he’s got to continue to learn and understand. That’s why the radar gun can be misleading at times. The velocity was there. It’s been there all year for him. There’s a strike quality, getting ahead, a component of when you have a hitter in a leverage count you have to put him away.
“Trying to bully guys – which I think at times he’s guilty of with the four-seamer – gets to be too predictable.”
As Roberts said, May's "stuff" was really good. He got 12 swings and misses, a solid number that accurately shows his stuff can be hard to hit. His curveball has the highest spin rate of any pitch in baseball, showing up again on Pitching Ninja last night even as he was getting knocked around.
But there's more to pitching than stuff, and May's inability to trust all his pitches in all counts is what cost him last night. It was a complete 180 from his last appearance in San Francisco, which maybe gives a little hope for the future that this was a one-game blip and not necessarily indicative of a bigger issue.
May probably has two starts left in the regular season, and he needs to show consistency of command if the Dodgers are going to trust him with important innings in the postseason. The version of May we got Friday night in San Francisco is someone you want taking the mound in October; last night in L.A., not so much.