OAKLAND, Calif. – One pitch into Trevor May’s major league career, he had thrown a strike, forced Coco Crisp to pop up, and recorded an out.
He had no way of knowing that he had already experienced the highlight of his debut.
In one of the most cringe-worthy displays of first-day jitters in recent memory, May was unable to throw the ball across the plate Saturday night, walking seven Oakland hitters and recording just six outs. The 24-year-old righthander threw 63 pitches in his two innings, but only 28 of them crossed the plate, and the rookie absorbed the loss in a game the Athletics eventually won 9-4.
That’s 12 consecutive losses to Oakland, and if the A’s complete the four-game sweep on Sunday, it would tie the Twins franchise record of consecutive losses to one team. The Rangers (in 1998-99) and Yankees (in 2002-03) each won 13 games in a row against them.
Sam Deduno gave up five runs over three innings, all on a pair of home runs by Stephen Vogt and Derek Norris, and the Twins squandered some early chances to stay close, going 3-for-13 with runners in scoring position. But the game was deflated by May’s first two innings.
“It was a case of a lot of things. The excitement, getting used to the ball, all kinds of stuff,” May said. “But at the end of the day, there’s no excuses for not making pitches, not executing, not being able to follow your [plan]. To get behind guys, this isn’t a team you do that to. And when I got ahead, I wasn’t putting guys away.”
May, acquired from Philadelphia in the Ben Revere trade two winters ago, spoke confidently Friday about his ability to deal with the excitement of his debut, but he couldn’t have imagined this. The Twins gave him a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, but after retiring Crisp on his first pitch — a fastball clocked at 91 miles per hour — May gave up a sharp single to Sam Fuld and a double to Josh Donaldson. Then the nerves took over: May walked Brandon moss on four pitches to load the bases, and Derek Norris on six pitches to force in a run.
His first real jam ended abruptly when Josh Reddick lifted a fly ball into shallow left field that Josh Willingham caught. Donaldson decided to try to score, but Willingham threw him out easily.
But if he thought the worst was behind him, he was too optimistic.
May retired the first two batters in the second inning on just eight pitches, getting a pair of routine fly balls. But the jitters returned: 12 of his next 13 pitches were balls, loading the bases once more. When he then tried to get ahead in the count by laying an 80-mph curve across the middle of the plate, Donaldson surprised him by swinging. He lined a two-run single to left, giving the A’s a 3-1 lead.
May’s problems weren’t over, though. Moss battled him for 10 pitches and drew another walk, loading the bases once more, and May, by now completely flustered, walked in another run on just five pitches to Norris. The inning — and May’s night — mercifully ended with a Reddick ground out.
The seven walks were a season high by any Twins pitcher, and the most May had allowed since July 18, 2012, when he walked eight batters in five innings while pitching for the Class AA Reading Phillies.
“He just couldn’t gather himself enough,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “They took a lot of pitches, walked a lot of people. … The kid had a hard time. We’ll let him try it again here. When you get in the big leagues, it’s a different [place] than being anywhere else. He just couldn’t get it, couldn’t find the strike zone.”