LOS ANGELES -- Kenta Maeda was prepared for the Mets hitters, he had watched tape on them, and he was able to execute despite not having his sharpest stuff. Yet it was the one hitter Maeda never saw coming that led to the Dodgers' 4-3 loss on Wednesday.Noah Syndergaard's two
LOS ANGELES -- Kenta Maeda was prepared for the Mets hitters, he had watched tape on them, and he was able to execute despite not having his sharpest stuff. Yet it was the one hitter Maeda never saw coming that led to the Dodgers' 4-3 loss on Wednesday.
Noah Syndergaard's two home runs in his first two at-bats left Maeda in disbelief, along with manager Dave Roberts and the rest of the Dodgers dugout.
Maeda was still processing the second one as Syndergaard rounded the bases. One pitch ago Syndergaard had been trying to lay down a bunt, and now he had hit a ball more than 100 mph into the right-field bleachers.
"I don't know if it was he felt it was a decent enough pitch hit out of the ballpark or he didn't think he was going to hit as opposed to trying to sacrifice bunt," Roberts said. "Earlier in that sequence he was trying to get the bunt down and Terry [Collins] took the bunt off. I don't know if that was it, but [Maeda] was stunned. Still thought he had enough to go back out there for another inning."
Maeda had understandably not watched tape on Syndergaard as a hitter. The first home run came off a first-pitch fastball that accidentally found the center of the strike zone, one that any hitter should have no trouble punishing. The second was pure strength from Syndergaard, a 2-2 breaking ball down and away that the pitcher somehow managed to drive.
"Even though I was able to get to two strikes, I had to finish him off, and I wasn't able to do that," Maeda said through a translator. "It was a mistake, I wasn't able to execute well."
Maeda also said that he could not remember the last time he allowed a home run to another pitcher, let alone two. Maeda's previous team for eight years, the Hiroshima Toyo Carp, plays in Japan's Central League, which does not use the designated hitter.
The problems with Syndergaard were the most obvious signs on a night in which Maeda struggled. He was able to limit the first eight hitters to no RBIs, but Roberts saw a pitcher that wasn't pitching his best stuff.
"He was using his breaking ball a lot tonight and it just didn't have that sharpness to it," Roberts said. "They got a couple looks prior, but one through eight, I thought he did a great job. He wasn't as sharp as he has been with the fastball command or the breaking ball crispness, but he still finds ways to get guys out."
While Maeda has almost always said in past starts that he will use his mistakes to improve, there's not much to take from a pitcher hitting multiple home runs for the first time in MLB since 2007 and the first time against the Dodgers since 1958.
"When you look at Maeda vs. Syndergaard, you're thinking low-scoring game. But you don't expect Syndergaard to hit two homers," Roberts said. "A pitcher hit a breaking ball, backdoor, down and away, out of the ballpark. You probably don't see that again all year."
Jack Baer is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles.