LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers' bullpen phone didn't ring off the hook in the middle innings as usual on Sunday, and it wasn't because of an equipment malfunction.
Rather, Kenta Maeda had pitched his club into the All-Star break with the rarely seen seven-inning start, striking out 13 in a 3-1 win over the Padres that gave the Dodgers a three-game win streak, a 7-3 homestand and put them 11 games above .500 for the first time this year.
Rebounding from his shortest start of the year (three innings), Maeda matched his longest. In the other nine games of the just-completed homestand, the Dodgers' bullpen threw more innings than the starters (45-42). Even in this one, Joe Blanton's easy eighth inning was followed by a 30-pitch save from Kenley Jansen, who appeared in his fourth game of the past five before heading down I-5 for the 2016 All-Star Game presented by MasterCard.
"You could see the look in Kenta's eye after that last outing. He was set to dominate and that's what he did, and it was just what we needed," said manager Dave Roberts. "Even for his psyche, for the starters, and to go into the break so strong, it was great for him."
Maeda, one of the best Japanese pitchers of the past decade, came into this season as a Major League newbie with the additional cloud of a failed physical exam that led to an incentive-laden contract. But he is 8-6 with a 2.95 ERA, he's second on the staff with 103 2/3 innings and he is tied with Scott Kazmir for the team lead with 18 starts.
In a rotation shredded by injuries, that's workhorse stuff, particularly lately. On Sunday, he had the first seven-inning start since Clayton Kershaw on June 20 and the first by a Dodger other than Kershaw since May 14. His eight wins tied for third most by a Dodgers rookie at the All-Star break with Rick Sutcliffe and Don Sutton, behind Kaz Ishii's 11 in 2002 and Fernando Valenzuela's nine in 1981.
"His slider was sharp, it was late," said Roberts. "It was all about the slider today, but he also was throwing the fastball, elevating it, making them conscious of it."
San Diego manager Andy Green agreed.
"We chased offspeed out of the zone," Green said. "He pitched us backwards all day long and we didn't seem to make an adjustment. He could spin us early, hard and late, mix in a fastball periodically, but it was pretty much all offspeed."
Roberts said despite the large deficit behind the Giants for first place in the National League West, he was proud that his team stayed afloat in the first half as it dealt with the adversity of multiple injuries.
"For our guys, I feel good that we just stayed focused on winning each game and not concerning ourselves about players hurt or what people are saying about us," Roberts said. "We had a couple stretches where we could have gone the other way, but the most encouraging thing is they stayed focused."