DETROIT -- For five innings on Sunday, it was the perfect duel. Justin Verlander and Kenta Maeda were unhittable, and only Verlander had allowed a baserunner in the form of a walk. But Maeda's picturesque performance came apart in the sixth, bringing Los Angeles' six-game winning streak to a halt
DETROIT -- For five innings on Sunday, it was the perfect duel. Justin Verlander and Kenta Maeda were unhittable, and only Verlander had allowed a baserunner in the form of a walk. But Maeda's picturesque performance came apart in the sixth, bringing Los Angeles' six-game winning streak to a halt with a 6-1 loss to the Tigers.
"[Maeda] threw very well," catcher Austin Barnes said. "That's probably the most upsetting thing about it all. For how well he threw, to give up four runs [in the sixth], that hurts a little bit because he had some really good stuff."
The Dodgers had a chance to set a new Major League record for Interleague Play -- with a sweep of the Tigers, they would have run their Interleague win streak to 14. But five innings of perfection was as close as Maeda would come after his combination of fastballs and offspeed pitches just couldn't get the job done.
Three straight hits started the sixth, with back-to-back doubles resulting in the Tigers taking the lead. Faced with baserunners for the first time in the game, Maeda couldn't hold off Detroit, and the runs came pouring in. The four-run frame was capped by Justin Upton's two-run home run to left -- a ball that Barnes had wanted Maeda to locate further away from Upton, but found its way in.
In his second season at the Major League level, Maeda is still learning how to deal with runners on base.
"I think he's continuing to develop that [ability to handle runners on base]," manager Dave Roberts said. "There were some big spots in the game today as far as big hitters. For him to use all the quadrants and get guys with the swing-and-miss fastball today, which was very good. But trying to minimize the damage, I think, is really important for guys to go deep in games. To win games, those elite pitchers have a way of minimizing the damage."
Maeda was able to mix his fastball and slider effectively for five innings, but he said through an interpreter that relying on his offspeed stuff too much in the sixth was what bit him. It wasn't just the pitch selection that he found regrettable, but the execution of those pitches.
The stuff is there for Maeda, but he's still finding his endurance. Of his 20 starts, he's exited before the sixth inning was complete in 15 of them. Six of those outings, including Sunday's, resulted in four-plus runs scored off of him. The 29-year-old is learning how to push through bumps, and it's going to take time.
Despite the rough ending, though, the first five innings showcased just how dominant he can be against opposing hitters.
"Kenta's stuff was good," Roberts said. "Kenta, really, through five innings, was electric, was very good. The slider, the fastball, the curveball, everything he had today was working, and it was good to see him go out there and compete."
Catherine Slonksnis is a contributor to MLB.com based in Detroit and covered the Dodgers on Sunday.