No win yet, but signs of improvement in May’s third start

Trevor May made some improvements in his third career start Saturday night -- like zero walks -- but still got the loss.

Craig Lassig/Craig Lassig/Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS — There were more signs of improvement for Twins rookie Trevor May as the right-hander made his third career start. Despite that, though, it wasn’t enough to garner his first big league victory.

After walking 11 batters in his first two starts — and two more in a relief outing — May didn’t issue a walk in 5 1/3 innings of work Saturday against Detroit. May did, however, serve up 11 hits as the Tigers tagged him for five runs in an 8-6 victory to split the day-night doubleheader.

While May was able to take some positives from Saturday’s game, he knows he still has plenty of work to do at the major league level.

"I felt comfortable throwing the ball over the plate, and not giving any free passes was definitely a plus," May said. "But at this point, it’s making adjustments and making pitches to get guys out, and I don’t think I did that very well."

For his third start in the majors, May started opposite Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander, a former Cy Young winner who hadn’t pitched since Aug. 11. While Verlander didn’t have his best stuff Saturday — he gave up four runs on eight hits in 5 2/3 innings — the veteran edged the rookie in this matchup.

There wasn’t one big inning that did May in Saturday, but rather a few bloops here and there as the Tigers put together several one-run innings against him. The first run came in the second when May issued a leadoff single to Victor Martinez. The Tigers first baseman advanced to second on a J.D. Martinez single and later scored on Bryan Holaday’s base hit to center for a 1-0 lead.

The Twins lineup picked May up in the second with a run, but he gave it right back in the top of the third. Again, it was a string of Detroit hits that yielded the run, this time thanks to a single by J.D. Martinez.

Tigers 8, Twins 6

Once again, Minnesota’s offense responded in the bottom half of the inning. Danny Santana scored on Joe Mauer’s double to the gap in right-center, and Trevor Plouffe drove in Brian Dozier and Mauer with his second double of the game to put May and the Twins up 4-2.

On this night, though, that wasn’t enough run support for May. Detroit chipped away with a run in the fifth and eventually took the lead in the sixth after May exited. He allowed a one-out single to Nick Castellanos and a double to Holaday before getting the hook. May’s night was done after 5 1/3 innings and 99 pitches.

"He’s got pitches. Now it’s just about locating the fastball a little bit better," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of May. "I thought there was times where he was really throwing the ball good. I thought the ball came out of his hand pretty decent. That’s a good hitting baseball team with some really good hitters in there."

Pitching in the second game of a doubleheader, May was hoping to go deeper into the game to help preserve the bullpen. While his 5 1/3 innings was the longest outing of his very brief major league career, it still wasn’t what he and the Twins had hoped for Saturday night.

"It was important that I go deeper into the game, and I couldn’t have an outing like the last three I’ve had," May said. "I tried to do that to the best of my ability. I really, really wanted to get through the sixth and end it on a high note, but unfortunately that didn’t happen."

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May gave way to reliever Jared Burton, who allowed both inherited runners to score. The runs were charged to May, meaning the five earned runs were the most of his three starts with the Twins. So, too, were his six strikeouts, and the zero walks were a major improvement after he struggled with control issues his first few times out.

At times Saturday, May exhibited a sharp breaking ball that can certainly be an effective pitch at this level. While he didn’t walk anyone this time out, fastball command will continue to be an emphasis for the 24-year-old.

"You never want to just give guys free bases at this level," May said. "Like you saw tonight, if there were four or five walks coupled with strings of hits, that turns into a snowball effect. The least you can do as a pitcher is limit the amount of free bases you give away and make the other team earn everything they get. Unfortunately tonight, they earned quite a bit."

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