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Maeda's early woes too much for Dodgers

@kengurnick
April 24, 2019

CHICAGO -- The plan was for Kenta Maeda to start Tuesday night’s series opener against the Cubs and follow with multiple innings from “hybrid” reliever Julio Urías and that’s what the Dodgers did, but things still went sideways in a 7-2 loss. As a refresher, the order isn’t reversed because

CHICAGO -- The plan was for Kenta Maeda to start Tuesday night’s series opener against the Cubs and follow with multiple innings from “hybrid” reliever Julio Urías and that’s what the Dodgers did, but things still went sideways in a 7-2 loss.

As a refresher, the order isn’t reversed because Urias, as dominant as he often is, is also young with a freshly rebuilt shoulder capsule and a management bent on limiting his innings early in the season so he’ll be fresh at crunch time. Urias started the last two weeks only because Hyun-Jin Ryu was hurt. Ryu’s now healthy and Urias is in the bullpen. That’s the way it is.

So, Maeda started, and it went bad from the start. A four-run, 37-pitch first inning, a two-run homer by Anthony Rizzo in the second inning and the Dodgers never recovered. Maeda righted the ship too late, finally attacking with his fastball and retiring his last eight batters. Urias took the baton for what amounted to dominant mop-up duty in the fifth and sixth innings, striking out four without allowing a run.

“Looking at who we have going forward, the starters [Walker Buehler and Ross Stripling the next two games], Julio can take down two or three innings,” said manager Dave Roberts. “He pitched two innings and we can get him back online Friday.”

For those preferring to have Urias start and Maeda relieve, that’s just not in the plans for April. Come July or August, who knows?

Maeda walked three in the first inning, one intentionally, one on a questionable ball-four call for Javier Baez from plate umpire Ted Barrett that loaded the bases when Maeda missed the target with a pitch that appeared within the zone nonetheless.

Maeda nearly went to his knees when he didn’t get the call. He struck out Kyle Schwarber for the second out, but Willson Contreras doubled inside third base on an 0-2 changeup and the rout was on.

“I struggled throughout the entire inning and the walks piled up,” said Maeda, whose 13 walks in 27 2/3 innings lead the club. “The Baez walk made the damage even bigger.”

The Dodgers and Barrett didn’t agree on much during the night. Roberts bobbed and weaved through postgame questioning and finally landed on the word “inconsistencies” for a strike zone that Maeda couldn’t solve.

“Tonight was a funky one, I think both ways,” said Roberts. “There were inconsistencies there and you try to calibrate a zone and you can’t bank on the consistency, it makes it tough for the pitchers and hitters. There were some pitches where the game could have gone in a different direction.”

Maeda said he had “no comment” about the call on the pitch to Baez.

“It’s something the umpires have control of and I have to obey those calls,” he said.

Roberts, though, conceded that Maeda lacked fastball command the first two innings, leaving little margin for error and diminishing the chances of getting close calls.

The Dodgers also figured Barrett played a role in their seventh-inning rally. With one run in, two out and runners on first and second, Barrett called a strike three on pinch-hitter Max Muncy.

“He called what he called and I’m not going to comment on that because I don’t want to get in trouble,” said Muncy.

The Dodgers runs scored on an RBI double by Justin Turner in the third inning off the glove of center fielder Jason Heyward at the wall and an RBI groundout by Chris Taylor in the seventh after a single by A.J. Pollock and double by Cody Bellinger. Turner’s RBI was his first since April 11.

Chicago’s final run came on a homer by Baez off Caleb Ferguson in the seventh inning.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.