A legend is Maeda: LA starter homers in debut

Dodgers righty goes deep in second at-bat, tosses six scoreless innings

April 7th, 2016

SAN DIEGO -- If Dave Roberts bought Kenta Maeda a steak dinner when the pitcher homered off the manager to win a batting-practice bet, Roberts might owe the right-hander the whole steakhouse after what Maeda did Wednesday night.

"He's used to Kobe beef," said Roberts. "We're going to go tomahawk steak, something pretty big."

In his Major League debut, Maeda was trending worldwide by pitching six scoreless innings and slugging a historic home run as the Dodgers beat the Padres, 7-0, completing a 25-0, three-game shutout sweep.

Following in the footsteps of fellow Japanese Dodgers Hideo Nomo, Kaz Ishii, Takashi Saito and Hiroki Kuroda, Maeda earned his first win and became the third starting pitcher to hit a home run in his debut since 2000.

Maeda also became the first Dodger to homer in his debut since Jose Offerman in 1990 and the first Dodgers pitcher to homer in his debut since Dan Bankhead in 1947.

"I'm just very happy to get the win in my Major League debut," Maeda said. "I was a little bit nervous at first, but my teammates scored four runs for me [in the first inning] and that helped me relax a lot. I was able to get back on the mound and do what I usually do."

Maeda, who still needs much work on his home run bat flip, clapped his hands as he rounded second base after belting his solo homer off Padres starter Andrew Cashner in the fourth, waved toward the Dodgers' dugout after rounding third, but admitted he was "surprised" to receive the traditional "silent treatment" for a moment after reaching the dugout before pandemonium broke out.

On the mound, Maeda allowed five hits and struck out four without a walk, helping the Dodgers become just the second team in Major League history to open a season with three straight shutouts. He put himself in a second-inning jam with a throwing error, but he escaped. Maeda eluded a two-on mess in the fourth, but he escaped again. And in his final inning, he had a controversial umpire's call at home plate withstand a challenge to keep the shutout intact.

"I was aware no runs scored in the first two games and we won, so I was definitely feeding off that momentum," Maeda said. "At the same time, knowing no runs scored, that was pressure for me, too."

At 84 pitches, Roberts called it a night for Maeda after six innings as he did for Scott Kazmir the night before. Yimi Garcia, J.P. Howell and Joe Blanton retired the final nine batters and the Dodgers headed to San Francisco with a sweep that extended their two-year win streak over the Padres to nine games.

"He did everything we thought he could do, and even hit a home run, so that's tough to match," said Clayton Kershaw. "Watching him hit in batting practice, I knew he had the ability, but I've played for eight years and hit one homer, so I'm pretty impressed. We're supposed to pitch good, but when we do that, that's Little League stuff."

Aside from Maeda, Yasiel Puig had three hits, including his first home run of the season, and he's now 6-for-10. Chase Utley tripled, Carl Crawford doubled and five Dodgers drove in a run.

The Dodgers played a spectacular series, no doubt, but are they that good or are the Padres that bad right now?

"Well, we'll find out," Kershaw said. "You can't ask for a better start. The Giants were swinging the bats well in Milwaukee. We'll see and find out."