Thursday’s Game 5 at Dodger Stadium was Kenta Maeda’s third start of the Dodgers’ postseason run, and it was by far his best. That he recorded only 11 outs, forcing the club to jump onto its carousel of relievers far earlier than envisioned, revealed just how bad the club’s No. 3 starter has been this month.
It was an altogether unusual outing for the 28-year-old right-hander, who yielded just one run. He struck out six Chicago Cubs. He walked two, and gave up a solitary run. And, yet, there were the 11 outs.
“My job as a starter is to go deep into the game, and I couldn’t do that,” Maeda said through interpreter Will Ireton. “As a result, it put a lot of stress on the entire team.”
That was not a new development. In his two previous postseason starts, Maeda had finished seven innings combined. He had hit one man, walked five men and struck out six. He had given up nine hits and, in all, seven runs. Manager Dave Roberts suggested before the game that Maeda had been “trying to be too perfect.”
“But, just seeing Kenta last night in the dugout, this guy is a fighter, he’s determined,” Roberts continued. “I’ve said it before, every time he takes the mound, I feel good. And this is no different. I think that he’s going to rise to the occasion.”
His words sounded confident — clairvoyant, even. His actions belied those words. In the fourth inning, Roberts pulled Maeda after back-to-back outs and with the Cubs pitcher, Jon Lester, about to bat. It was a rare display of confidence in a middle reliever over a No. 3 starter.
Consider that Maeda’s replacement, right-hander Josh Fields, was pitching in triple A as recently as August.
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