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Dodgers’ Kenta Maeda pitches seven scoreless innings in win over Braves

Dodgers starting pitcher Kenta Maeda works in the seventh inning against the Atlanta Braves on Aug. 1 in Atlanta.
(John Bazemore / Associated Press Photo)

Years ago, Dodgers pitcher Kenta Maeda trained with Yu Darvish. When Maeda became an All-Star in Nippon Professional Baseball, Darvish invited him to dinner. Over time, Maeda was able to pick the brain of Japan’s most celebrated pitcher.

Yet on Monday, when the Dodgers acquired Darvish from the Texas Rangers, Maeda served as one of the potential casualties. With Darvish in the fold, Maeda has been effectively squeezed out of the playoff rotation — if Clayton Kershaw, Alex Wood and Rich Hill are all sound by October.

The reality did not hamper Maeda in a 3-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday. In one of his best starts in 2017, Maeda limited Atlanta to two hits in seven scoreless innings. He struck out six as the Dodgers (75-31) won their ninth in a row.

“There are only a limited amount of spots,” Maeda said. “It’s not in my power to be able to influence that. What I try to do is make sure that I produce every time I get the opportunity.”

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Since rejoining the rotation in late June, Maeda has delivered a 2.20 earned-run average in six starts. He will continue to jockey for innings with Hyun-Jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy as the season continues. Manager Dave Roberts expected the pitchers to embrace their opportunities.

“They’re all a part of it,” Roberts said before the game. “They’ve been a part of it from the beginning. We’ve got a lot of unselfish players, and they’re going to do what’s best for the team.”

The score tightened in the eighth inning when reliever Josh Ravin gave up a two-run home run to Braves shortstop Johan Camargo. Tony Watson, another Dodgers newcomer acquired at the trade deadline, replaced Ravin and pitched a scoreless inning.

On Tuesday, the Dodgers manufactured three runs against Braves rookie Lucas Sims, who made his major league debut. Yasiel Puig doubled and scored on a double by Chris Taylor in the third. Cody Bellinger swatted his 28th homer in the fourth. And Puig benefited from unnecessary aggression in the fifth, scoring after Atlanta catcher Tyler Flowers airmailed a throw to third as Puig tried to steal.

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“I think Yasiel thought he was invisible,” Roberts said. “He had a bad jump. But somehow Flowers threw it into left field.”

Watson joins bullpen

Watson spent a decade with the Pittsburgh Pirates. They drafted him in 2007, brought him to the majors in 2012 and used him as a reliever during two playoff runs. So he said he felt bittersweet when he learned Monday that he was leaving the organization — sad to leave the only team he had known, thrilled to join a team surging toward a fifth division title in a row.

“You can feel it right away,” Watson said. “The energy in here is great. Guys are showing up excited to come to the ballpark. It’s contagious. It’s infectious. You can just tell that everybody’s having a good time.”

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In his scoreless inning Tuesday, Watson gave up a leadoff single before collecting three swift outs, including a soft lineout from left-handed batter Freddie Freeman.

“I wanted to see him face Freeman,” Roberts said. “That’s the reason we got him.”

Watson was one of two left-handed relievers the Dodgers acquired Monday. They also dealt for Cincinnati Reds veteran Tony Cingrani, who will join the team Thursday.

Watson has a 3.66 ERA after a rocky June. He posted a 2.53 ERA in July.

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“I’ve been up and down, honestly,” Watson said. “I had a rough stretch early on, giving up some hard contact. Just wasn’t who I am. These last couple weeks, I’ve gotten back to [being] myself, and who I am, pounding the strike zone and attacking the hitters. I’ll try to continue that here.”

Short hops

The experiment to turn Brett Eibner into a pitcher has ended on an operating table. Eibner underwent elbow ligament replacement surgery Tuesday after suffering an arm injury while throwing bullpen sessions in the majors and with triple-A Oklahoma City. Eibner had not played since July 7. He did not pitch in a game.

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andy.mccullough@latimes.com

Twitter: @McCulloughTimes


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