The Dodgers’ James Outman, right, high-fives teammate Max Muncy after hitting a tie-breaking grand slam during the seventh inning of their game against the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday afternoon at Dodger Stadium. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)
LOS ANGELES — The plaudits for Dustin May came from the heart, about his confidence, an unbeatable mindset and the value of his knowledge gleaned from a sometimes bumpy path to become a dependable starter.
Just a few hours after Dodgers manager Dave Roberts gave May the highest of compliments, the right-hander departed his start Wednesday against the Minnesota Twins with what was diagnosed as “right elbow pain.”
The mood was only somewhat tempered in a five-run seventh inning as the Dodgers rallied with a bases-loaded walk from Miguel Vargas and a grand slam from James Outman one pitch later to earn a 7-3 victory.
The Dodgers won their sixth consecutive series and have earned a victory in 15 of their last 18 games.
In the short term, though, the Dodgers were left to process the elbow injury that was an ominous diagnosis for a pitcher who is not even a full year back from Tommy John surgery. May spent a year away after his 2021 procedure, returned to make six starts last season and had a spot on the postseason roster last October although he didn’t pitch.
In eight starts this season, May appeared as if he never spent all that time away. He came into Wednesday’s outing with a 4-1 record and a 2.68 ERA. He had given up an impressive 5.4 walks and hits per nine innings and 0.2 home runs per nine innings.
On Wednesday morning, Roberts was asked if May was starting to look like Walker Buehler did during his breakout season in 2018 when he finished third in National League Rookie of the Year voting.
“Yeah, I think that’s fair,” Roberts said, with the comparison only adding to the impact of May’s injury. “… There comes a point where there’s real confidence for a young player and not contrived. I think right now, Dustin feels like, when he takes the mound, he’s the best guy out there and he can go out there and dominate.”
How long it will take for him to dominate again remains to be seen. Right-hander Dylan Covey did an admirable job in the fill-in role, giving up two runs on five hits over four innings with one walk and three strikeouts after he was added to the roster Wednesday morning.
The Dodges took the early 1-0 lead in the third inning on Mookie Betts’ leadoff triple and a sacrifice fly from Freddie Freeman. But the Twins tied it a half inning later on a home run from Byron Buxton off Covey, his ninth.
The Dodgers took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the fourth on an infield single from Outman, a stolen base and Betts’ two-out RBI single.
Covey avoided major trouble until the sixth. He gave up a leadoff home run to former Dodger Joey Gallo then saw the Twins load the bases with nobody out on singles from Alex Kirilloff and Carlos Correa, with a walk to Buxton.
Dodgers left-hander Victor Gonzalez then rode to the rescue by getting Jorge Polanco on a popup to first base, while striking out pinch hitter Donovan Solano. He finished off the magic act by getting former Dodger Kyle Farmer to fly out to left field.
The Twins finally moved in front in the sixth inning. After Willi Castro and Christian Vazquez singled against Caleb Ferguson, the Dodgers’ left-hander appeared to have Castro picked off between second and third. But his throw to third was nowhere near Max Muncy allowing Castro to score for a 3-2 Minnesota lead.
The Dodgers’ seventh-inning rally all came with two outs. Will Smith and Max Muncy singled to chase Jose De Leon. The line kept moving against Emilio Pagan with Jason Heyward earning a walk to load the bases. Vargas earned a five-pitch walk to tie it and Outman drilled his first-pitch grand slam to center field.
It was Outman’s second grand slam and second home run since April 23. Right-hander Brusdar Graterol (2-1) did not give up a hit over 1-1/3 innings to earn the win.
More to come on this story.