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Maeda's 9 K's, LA's 2 HRs turn away Cubs

MLB.com

LOS ANGELES - Given a second chance, Kenta Maeda turned the tables on the Cubs.

Facing Chicago for the second time in less than a week, Maeda tossed seven scoreless frames, backed by home runs from Enrique Hernandez and Chris Taylor, to lead the Dodgers to a 2-1 win at Dodger Stadium.

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LOS ANGELES - Given a second chance, Kenta Maeda turned the tables on the Cubs.

Facing Chicago for the second time in less than a week, Maeda tossed seven scoreless frames, backed by home runs from Enrique Hernandez and Chris Taylor, to lead the Dodgers to a 2-1 win at Dodger Stadium.

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With their fourth straight victory, the Dodgers improved to 42-35, 1 1/2 games behind the first-place D-backs in the National League West. As their rotation appears to be rounding into form and their bats keep producing, they believe things are coming together.

"So far, we're playing really good baseball," Hernandez said, "and we're looking forward to keeping it going."

In Maeda's previous outing -- his second since returning from the disabled list on June 13 -- Chicago's batters got the better of the veteran right-hander. That was not the case on Monday.

"Ever since coming off the DL, I think feeling-wise, it was the best I've felt," Maeda said. "Overall, it was a much better feeling coming into this game than the other ones."

Maeda (5-4) delivered an outstanding performance, striking out nine batters while walking one and allowing just three hits.

"Tonight, he was considerably more synced up with his delivery," manager Dave Roberts said. "In Chicago, it just looked like he was finding himself, and today, the delivery, he was synced up and obviously executing pitches all night long."

Video: CHC@LAD: Roberts on Maeda's terrific outing, win

When Maeda faced Chicago last week, he lasted 3 2/3 innings, surrendering three runs on five hits and five walks. He only struck out two. But Roberts thought Maeda looked more like himself on Monday night, utilizing his fastball to attack the zone while mixing in his slider and changeup.

"It starts with his delivery, feeling comfortable where he was at mechanically," Roberts said. "From there, he could essentially do what he wanted."

Added Hernandez: "He was outstanding. Pretty sure if it were up to him, he'd have thrown five more innings."

Maeda's gem proved important on night the Dodgers' offense sputtered.

The Dodgers stressed Chicago rookie starter Duane Underwood Jr. early, but struggled to capitalize. They finished 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position and tallied just five hits.

"I thought it seemed like we were up, 5-0," Roberts said. "But you look up there and they have the tying run in the on-deck circle every single inning."

Video: CHC@LAD: Taylor jacks solo HR to straightaway center

The long ball was enough to propel Los Angeles to victory again, just as it's been over the past month. Hernandez led off the second inning with his career-high 13th homer, and Taylor hit the difference-maker in the eighth in a pinch-hit appearance that came as a surprise, as Roberts said prior to the game that Taylor was unlikely to even be available for Tuesday's contest.

"To have his bat off the bench and to trust him against a right-hander and a left-hander in the spot, that's huge value," Roberts said. "That's obviously paid dividends for our club."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Dodgers get two, twice: After Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ led the fifth inning off with a pair of singles -- both of which beat the Dodgers' infield shift -- Maeda caught a break when Cubs catcher Chris Gimenez's attempt at a sacrifice bunt resulted in a popup in front of the plate. Grandal caught it for one out before firing it to second base to double up Schwarber. Maeda induced pinch-hitter Tommy La Stella into a groundout to end the inning the next at-bat, preserving the Dodgers' 1-0 lead.

Video: CHC@LAD: Grandal snags popup, doubles off Schwarber

Scott Alexander relieved Maeda to begin the eighth with Los Angeles still clinging to that 1-0 lead and relinquished back-to-back singles to Happ and pinch-hitter Willson Contreras. But the left-hander got pinch-hitter Addison Russell to ground into a fielder's choice, placing runners on the corners with one out, before getting Albert Almora Jr. to roll in to a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.

Video: CHC@LAD: Alexander gets double play to escape the 8th

SOUND SMART
Hernandez has hit six home runs this month, all of them coming in his past 13 games. Hernandez hit just seven home runs through his first 57 games this season.

Hernandez launches 6th homer in last 13 games

Video: CHC@LAD: Hernandez cranks solo homer with Utley's bat

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Cody Bellinger nearly doubled the Dodgers' lead in the sixth inning. The first baseman squared up a first-pitch fastball from Cubs reliever Randy Rosario, drilling it into the gap at left-center. Justin Turner raced from first to home as Schwarber slid to the ground in the outfield, before getting up and firing it back toward shortstop Javier Baez, who made a fantastic relay throw that beat Turner to home plate. Gimenez applied the tag for the second out, setting up Anthony Bass to roll Matt Kemp into a 1-3 groundout to end the inning and strand Bellinger at third base.

Video: CHC@LAD: Baez saves run with laser throw to the plate

HE SAID IT
"Have I seen them? Not in-depth. I kinda just glossed over them, so, yeah, I saw them. … Puig being Puig." -- Dave Roberts, on Yasiel Puig's photos in ESPN the Magazine's Body Issue

Check out Puig in ESPN the Mag's Body Issue

UP NEXT
Right-hander Ross Stripling (6-2, 1.99 ERA), who allowed three runs on eight hits in a loss at Wrigley Field on Wednesday, gets a rematch with left-hander Jon Lester as the Dodgers and Cubs continue their four-game series at 7:10 PT on Tuesday night.

Kaelen Jones is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles Dodgers, Kenta Maeda