Maeda again credited an adjustment to slow his delivery while maintaining attack mode going after hitters. Maeda said even with Kershaw, Rich Hill and Hyun-Jin Ryu sidelined, he doesn't consider himself a staff leader. But he acknowledged the club is leaning on him for quality starts.
"Yes, the reality is we have a lot of injured pitchers," Maeda said. "My focus is to pitch long and pitch well."
After taking the rubber game of the series, the Dodgers are 3 1/2 games behind the first-place Rockies, their smallest deficit since April 10, and have won six of their last seven games.
"You can see the energy in the clubhouse," said closer Kenley Jansen, who picked up his 10th save and fourth in the last five days. "Everybody's like, we're going to get out of this. Things are finally starting to go our way."
Maeda was removed after walking Chris Iannetta with two outs in the seventh inning after striking out the previous four batters on three pitches each.
"Being able to put away guys quickly is a major key in racking up the Ks," he said. "I really wanted to finish off that last hitter [Iannetta]."
Maeda struck out 10 of 14 batters before the Iannetta at-bat and finished one shy of his career best.
"The slider is really good right now," said Roberts. "And the fastball command to both sides of the plate, he was in control and his stuff wasn't falling off. He's more efficient when he's on the attack. It's fun to watch."
Maeda is 4-3 with a 3.38 ERA after Roberts said he "extended" Maeda into the seventh inning to face right-handed batters Trevor Story, Ian Desmond and Iannetta. Maeda finished with 111 pitches, the most he's thrown for the Dodgers.
"In Japan, it's not that many pitches," said Maeda, who was a workhorse in his homeland before coming to the Dodgers and adjusting to quick hooks (28 complete games there, none here).
"I'm going to pinpoint him [Maeda] tonight," Rockies manager Bud Black said. "Our strikeouts had been down the last week or so, but tonight was just a lot of Maeda."
Offensively, Maeda had enough to work with.
Justin Turner, 8-for-14 against Rockies starter Kyle Freeland, led off the bottom of the fourth with a single up the middle. After left fielder Gerardo Parra robbed Matt Kemp of a hit with a diving catch, Enrique Hernandez singled Turner to second.
Logan Forsythe, 0-for-10 against Freeland at the time, got the Dodgers on the board with a ground-rule double. With runners at second and third, Yasiel Puig's bouncer to shortstop Story resulted in Forsythe being erased in a rundown, but Hernandez scored the second run and Puig hustled to second, but was stranded.
Maeda had a no-hitter until Desmond's soft line single to right field with one out in the fifth inning. But he struck out the side in the fourth and again in the sixth, when he pitched out of a jam with runners on the corners by fanning Nolan Arenado and Parra.
SOUND SMART Maeda was mowing down Rockies in the later innings. He struck out the final two hitters of the sixth inning (Arenado and Parra) and the first two hitters of the seventh inning (Story and Desmond) on three pitches each. Craig Kimbrel was the last to record four consecutive strikeouts on 12 total pitches, on May 11, 2017, against Milwaukee.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS Four Dodgers wins in the last five days have been saved by Jansen, including this one, giving him 10 on the season. He's allowed one run over his last 15 innings with 16 strikeouts, including three in this game.
"I feel like we're starting to get our rhythm," said Jansen. "We've been playing good baseball for a week now. We have to just keep feeding off that. We're all stepping up, Kenta, the bullpen, everyone."
HE SAID IT "Over the course of the last 2 1/2 years, [Maeda] has shown when he gets an extra day or two, he's stronger. The next turn he'll have an extra day." -- Roberts, on the club's preference to pitch Maeda on at least five days' rest
UP NEXT Ross Stripling will face the Padres on Friday night at 7:10 p.m. PT in the series opener. He'll be opposed by Clayton Richard. Stripling shut down the potent Nationals on May 19, striking out nine in six strong innings. He tossed four scoreless innings against San Diego in Monterrey, Mexico, on May 6. Cody Bellinger is expected back in the lineup after not starting Wednesday night. Bellinger, who is in a 2-for-27 slump, entered Wednesday's game in a double switch in the eighth and flied out in his only at-bat.
Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.