Kenta Maeda went into Friday’s game against the Washington Nationals having alternated between strong and struggling performances in his previous seven starts this season. He was 3-2 but the Dodgers had lost four of Maeda’s seven games.
They were looking to bounce back from being shut out by a Nationals team that entered the series on a four-game losing skid, and Maeda certainly did his part to contribute. He started the game with a walk but that wound up being one of only three baserunners against him.
The right-hander retired six in a row after the leadoff walk in the first inning and the only hit he allowed was a Wilmer Difo single to open the fourth. Maeda matched a season high with six strikeouts over six scoreless innings.
It was a second time this season he didn’t allow a run, but the 31-year-old stopped short of calling it his best start of 2019, via SportsNet LA:
“I don’t think it’s necessarily my best one. I should go a little bit longer if it’s my best outing.”
Maeda additionally acknowledged putting men on base has been a trouble spot for him and credited a new focus for avoiding that pitfall against the Nationals:
“Walks have been my problem throughout my outings this year. But not aiming too much for the batter to swing at a pitch out of the zone, changing my mindset helped me out today.”
He entered the night averaging 4.2 walks per nine innings and with a 10.9% walk rate, both of which are career highs. He’d walked three batters in three of his previous starts, and while he trimmed that to two against the Nationals, has issued at least that many in all but one outing.
Maeda not only managed to largely keep the Nationals off the bases, he did so efficiently, needing just 86 pitches to get through his six innings of work. But rather than push matters, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts opted for a pinch-hitter when Maeda’s spot came up third in the bottom of the sixth and with the team holding a 3-0 lead.
It was Maeda’s second consecutive start going six innings and fourth time overall this season in which he’s pitched at least that many.