When Dave Roberts hooked Dodger starter Kenta Maeda with two outs in the top of the seventh inning and nobody on base on Wednesday evening against the Padres, I was worried. Don’t tell me you weren’t worried too. I understand that pitchers wins and losses mean nothing but tonight I really wanted Maeda to get the win. After all he turned in as dominant of a performance as we have ever seen from him. The Japanese right hander struck out 12, and drove in both of the Dodger’s runs in their 2-0 shutout win over San Diego. We hoped that the bullpen wouldn’t screw it up.
Maeda was the star of the night. He tossed 6.2 shutout frames allowing just three hits and striking out 12. Eric Hosmer had three of the Padre’s four hits on the night, but the only blemish for Maeda was a fourth inning double to Manny Machado. Ultimately that was the Padre’s only chance of scoring until the top of the ninth inning.
Opposing starter left hander Matt Strahm pitched well too. He tossed five innings and allowed two earned runs on seven hits and struck out five. He walked two and made 88 pitches. Maeda on the other hand didn’t walk anyone. He was that flawless. In the bottom of the second he flashed his hitting skills as the Dodgers scored their two runs.
Paderes 0 4 1
Dodgers 2 8 1
In that inning Corey Seager reached on an infield single. Chris Taylor’s sacrifice advanced Seager to second. Alex Verdugo reached on an infield grounder as well to put runners at first and third. The call was originally out, but the official replay reviews overturned the call on the field. After Russell Martin struck out, Verdugo stole second. Maeda flared a pop fly single to shallow right field that dropped in for a hit. Two runs scored and the Dodgers took a 2-0 lead.
With Maeda pitching as dominantly as he was, that was more than enough. But is it enough for the bullpen? In the top of the seventh, with the Dodgers still ahead by a 2-0 score, Eric Hosmer singled with one out. After a mound visit from the Dodgers, Maeda whiffed Hunter Renfroe. Then Roberts removed him after he had made 85 pitches because….actually I have no idea. Was Maeda tired? I don’t know. Was he sore after fouling a pitch off of his leg the inning before? Or did Roberts remove Maeda because of a matchup? Just because a match-up happens to present itself during a game doesn’t mean you have to do it.
But Roberts just couldn’t help himself much like an addict can’t help himself during a relapse. In this scenario the addiction is going to a mediocre reliever for no reason other than a stupid match-up. With the way Maeda was pitching it made little sense. Maeda was that good, mixing a sharp slider, changeup and working both sides of the plate with ease.
As I have said before, when starters go deep into games, good things happen. Maeda did get the Dodgers into the seventh with the lead. In general the starters are pitching very well and going deeper into games. Heck even Hyun-jin Ryu pitched a complete game shutout. It’s not a surprise that the Dodgers are winning.
Scott Alexander did get his man and turned the ball to Pedro Baez in the top of the eighth. Baez struck out two of three in that inning and gave the ball to Kenley Jansen. The top of the ninth was frightening. Kenley has already blown one game to the Padres in grand fashion. It almost happened again. After a ground out to Franmil Reyes on a spectacular diving play from Enrique Hernandez, Machado walked. Then Hosmer bunted against the shift for a single.
At some point we have to stop blaming outside events and possibly accept the fact that Kenley is getting old. Eventually he just has to start executing and getting outs. The Kenley of old would have never messed around. He would have immediately struck out the side with ease. And so after Kenley shook off Martin’s calls several times, he used his tried and true pitch, the cutter to get the Dodgers the win. The Kenley of old finally resurfaced. He struck out Renfroe, and then whiffed pinch-hitter Alex Dickerson to preserve the win. It was close, but Maeda got a well deserved win. The Dodgers hit the road for an eight game road trip that begins on Friday night at Cincinnati. Rich Hill will counter Anthony DeSclafani in the series opener.