With Kenta Maeda coming off arguably one of the worst starts of his career, Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts again highlighted sequencing and pitching with conviction as keys for the right-hander to succeed.
Maeda seemingly took heed of the message as the he pitched with an aggression that had been lacking for more than month. He entered Saturday’s outing without a win since May 31 and having gone 0-6 with a 5.26 ERA in his last 12 games (11 starts).
It was evident Maeda found an early rhythm against the Arizona Diamondbacks he retired the first nine batters faced, with only one out leaving the infield.
“He was striking his fastball, he was getting ahead, he was getting back into the count with his breaking ball. Then kind of mixing in his secondary pitches,” Roberts said.
“Honey worked with some things as far as getting his arm up a little bit instead of off to the side. Tonight was really, really good from Kenta. To give us seven innings was good for our ballclub but more importantly for his confidence.”
In addition to working with Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt to raise his arm slot to throw more over the top, they addressed Maeda’s pitch in effort to solve some of his woes.
“The past couple months I’ve been starting off with a pitch outside the zone, starting off the inning with a walk,” Maeda said through an interpreter. “Tonight, I made sure I stayed in the zone and attacked the batters and made sure I threw strikes.”
The result was seven shutout innings with just three hits allowed and six strikeouts against zero walks. It was the first time he didn’t issue a walk since pitching one inning out of the bullpen on July 19.
The outing was Maeda’s longest since going 7.2 innings on July 6, and it was his first start without a walk since May 31.
While he managed to break a summer slump, it’s not likely to prevent Maeda from ultimately shifting to the bullpen. Though, he and the Dodgers have maintained that is not yet at the forefront of their minds.