Baseball

Dodgers’ Kenta Maeda carves up Padres behind dominant performance

The stuff has rarely wavered. Since Kenta Maeda joined the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2016, he has relied primarily on a fastball that he throws from between 90 and 93 mph, a slider ranging from 82 to 85 mph and a split-fingered change-up he throws between 83 to 86 mph.

It's the conviction with which Maeda delivers his three-pitch repertoire that tends to wander at times.

"When he's in that mindset of executing and committing to a certain pitch, especially the fastball, he keeps guys on their toes, off his breaking stuff, and he's better for it," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said of Maeda.

"There are times when you're missing your spots with noncompetitive pitches, and it makes it a little tough to navigate through a lineup."

There were very few noncompetitive pitches on Wednesday night for Maeda, who didn't so much navigate through the San Diego Padres lineup as he did carve it up into nine easy pieces.

In one of his most dominant starts as a Dodger, Maeda gave up three hits, struck out 12 – one shy of his career-high – and walked none in 6 2/3 innings of a 2-0 victory before 41,671 in Dodger Stadium.

Maeda, who also drove in his team's only two runs with a second-inning bloop single, struck out six batters in a row from the second through fourth innings. He threw 85 pitches, 64 for strikes.

According to Inside Edge, Maeda, who improved to 5-2 with a 3.51 ERA, got 22 swings and misses, the second-most of his career, 14 of them coming on his slider, which he used to finish eight of his strikeouts.

Roberts was booed when he pulled Maeda with two outs and a runner on first in favor of left-hander Scott Alexander in the seventh. Those boos were quickly replaced by robust cheers for Maeda.

Alexander retired Austin Allen on a grounder to first to end the inning, Pedro Baez struck out two in a scoreless eighth, and Kenley Jansen survived a turbulent 26-pitch ninth to help the Dodgers improve to 4-1 against the Padres this season.

Franmil Reyes opened the top of the ninth with a shot up the middle that second baseman Enrique Hernandez stopped with a diving backhand before scrambling to his knees and throwing to first for the out.

Manny Machado drew an eight-pitch walk, and Eric Hosmer beat the Dodgers' infield shift with a bunt single to third, putting two on with one out. But Jansen struck out Hunter Renfroe with a 93-mph cut-fastball and pinch-hitter Alex Dickerson looking at another 93-mph cutter for his 14th save.

The Dodgers scored twice in the second inning on a pair of grounders that didn't leave the infield and a soft single that left Maeda's bat at 66.5 mph and traveled all of 200 feet before dropping between three defenders for two runs.

Corey Seager tapped a grounder off the end of his bat and beat third baseman Ty France's off-balance throw to first to start the inning. Chris Taylor bunted Seager to second.

Alex Verdugo was initially ruled out by first-base umpire Tripp Gibson on a grounder up the middle, but the call was overturned by instant replay, He then stole second base, putting runners on second and third.

Maeda then lofted an 87-mph slider from Padres left-hander Matt Strahm into a patch of grass in shallow right field, the ball falling between first baseman Hosmer, second baseman Greg Garcia and right fielder Reyes for a two-run single.

Hernandez singled to center and Justin Turner was hit on the left arm by a pitch to load the bases, becoming the first player in Dodgers' franchise history to be hit by a pitch in four straight games since Hughie Jennings in 1900, when the team was known as the Brooklyn Superbas. Cody Bellinger then grounded sharply to first to end the inning.

The Dodgers threatened in the third when Seager singled sharply to right field and took third on Taylor's one-out double to left. With the infield in, Verdugo grounded sharply to Garcia, who threw home to nail Seager, and Russell Martin popped to shortstop for the third out.

Maeda's string of six straight strikeouts ended in the fourth inning when Machado lofted a one-out double over the head of Bellinger, who turned twice on a ball that appeared catchable.

Machado took third on Hosmer's grounder to second, but Maeda struck out Renfroe with an 85-mph full-count slider to end the inning.

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