LOS ANGELES -- Striking out 12 opponents in a game is what you want from a starting pitcher. Driving in both of his team’s runs in a game is what you never expect from a starting pitcher.
Doing both, as Kenta Maeda did in the Dodgers’ 2-0 win over San Diego on Wednesday night at Dodger Stadium, is called historic. Since RBIs became an official stat in 1920, Maeda is the first pitcher to have at least 12 strikeouts while also having at least two RBIs to account for all of his team’s runs.
“It’s hard to imagine him being any better, especially when he saw the team 10 days ago,” said manager Dave Roberts, whose club concluded a 7-2 homestand with closer Kenley Jansen escaping a ninth-inning jam for his 14th save.
“It was a good homestand as far as the win-loss, but there are things we need to clean up. We can play considerably better,” Roberts said.
Maeda can’t. On the mound, he continued a rotation roll that, since April 25, has Dodgers starting pitchers going 10-1 with a 2.20 ERA. That includes four shutouts in the last eight games.
Maeda is 5-2 with a 3.51 ERA. He didn’t issue a walk for the first time this year, but again wasn’t allowed to pitch as deep as he’d like. He left to cheers with two outs in the sixth inning, while Roberts heard the boos after bringing in left-hander Scott Alexander to retire left-handed hitter Austin Allen with a runner on. Maeda had already retired Allen in both at-bats.
“That seventh inning I started to see the ball go wide, the slider wasn’t as sharp, missed a couple times with the fastball in the zone and it wasn’t quite getting there,” said Roberts. “I just felt it was a great outing and that was the time.”
That’s a diplomatic way of saying Maeda is on a short leash. The 6 2/3 innings matched his season high. Although he hasn’t allowed a run in three of his last four starts, neither has he been allowed to throw more than 86 pitches. He was lifted after 85 in this game.
When he gets to the third time through the batting order, Maeda is on borrowed time.
“If I was running for office, where I’m trying to get the crowd approval ... but I’m trying to help us win a championship,” Roberts said about the crowd’s dismay over Maeda’s removal. “That’s something that’s well thought out. And it worked out. They don’t always work out, but I have reasons for why I do what I do.”
Maeda had 28 complete games in eight seasons in Japan. In three-plus seasons with the Dodgers, he doesn’t have any. He not only isn’t allowed to complete games, he often isn’t allowed to complete an inning, like the seventh in this game. He remained respectful as always afterward, even if his disappointment shone through.
“Even though I believe it is the starter’s duty to start an inning and end an inning,” Maeda said, “overall we were able to get the W tonight so I believe it was the right move.”
“He couldn’t have thrown it out there any better,” said Roberts.
“I was pleased to let everyone know that if the ball hits the bat, something happens,” joked Maeda.