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Dodgers

Giants clinch wild card by roughing up Kenta Maeda and the Dodgers

Kenta Maeda
Dodgers starter Kenta Maeda did not make it out of the third inning against the Giants on Sunday.
(Jason O. Watson / Getty Images)

As a dreary week drifted to its conclusion, Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts mused with his coaching staff about a metaphorical concept. What his team needed, after five losses in six days, the last a 7-1 defeat to the Giants, was “to hit the reset button,” he said.

“I’m not too concerned about our guys,” Roberts said. “But I don’t want any carryover from this past road trip.”

The schedule should cleanse his club’s palate. The team will have four days to rest, albeit with a cross-country flight in the middle of this stretch, before resuming action in Game 1 of the National League division series against Washington on Friday at Nationals Park. After sputtering through the final days of the season, the Dodgers (91-71) hope the time off will erase any bad habits created this week.

The defeat Sunday ended the rookie season of Kenta Maeda on a sour note and ushered San Francisco into the postseason. The Giants will travel to New York for Wednesday’s wild-card game, having earned a spot by sweeping the Dodgers this weekend and battering Maeda along the way.

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Maeda (16-11, 3.48 earned-run average) pitched the briefest outing of his career, exiting with two outs in the third inning. He matched a career-high total for runs allowed with five. The Giants pestered him with nine hits, spoiling good pitches and punishing bad ones. His next outing will be Game 3 at Dodger Stadium on Oct. 10.

“It’s too bad that my season ended on a bad note,” Maeda said through an interpreter. “But I’m going to go through my regular adjustments and prepare for the next game.”

The performance of Maeda can be brushed aside. He has established himself as a credible candidate for a postseason rotation. But the offense’s ongoing trouble against left-handed pitchers remains obvious.

On Sunday, the Dodgers had no answer for Giants left-hander Matt Moore. They had punished Moore for six runs in an outing at Dodger Stadium on Sept. 21. They managed only one run in eight innings against him on Sunday.

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Roberts sounded less than thrilled with the doggedness of his team’s at-bats. But he and several of his players shrugged off the suggestion that what happened this weekend will affect next weekend.

“That’s what the next four days are for,” shortstop Corey Seager said. “Get your body ready, your mind ready, prepare, all that other stuff. That’s what we’re looking forward to doing now.”

Despite the pummeling Sunday, Maeda’s first season in the United States was an unequivocal success. He made 32 starts, a milestone that netted him a $1.5-million bonus on Sunday, pushing his full-season financial total to $12.9 million.

The Giants dented Maeda in their first three at-bats. Outfielder Denard Span led off with a single. A double by first baseman Brandon Belt came next. Both men scored when catcher Buster Posey hit a single into right field on a first-pitch fastball.

It only got worse. An inning later, Maeda allowed a single to second baseman Joe Panik and a double to third baseman Conor Gillaspie. Two batters later, he split the plate with a full-count curveball to Span, who smacked a drive off the right-field wall, driving in two runs with a triple.

“My command was off,” Maeda said. “I didn’t have any sharpness to any of my pitches. I didn’t really feel good overall with the feel of what I had.”

Maeda continued to flounder. He walked Belt. Posey pushed the Giants’ lead to five runs with another RBI single. Down the right-field line, Luis Avilan loosened up in the Dodgers bullpen.

Avilan sat down when Maeda escaped the jam. But he jumped back up an inning later when outfielder Angel Pagan sent a one-out double racing down the first-base line. Maeda intentionally walked Gillaspie so he could face Moore. The maneuver backfired when Seager bobbled a ground ball hit by Moore, leaving the bases loaded and ending Maeda’s afternoon.

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With Maeda gone, all that remained were tryouts for the postseason bullpen roster. Avilan struck out Span to end the third but gave up a hit to Belt to start the fourth. Into the game came hard-throwing right-hander Josh Fields, who struck out outfielder Hunter Pence and shortstop Brandon Crawford with 95-mph fastballs. Fields (2.79 ERA) could claim one of the final spots in the relief corps.

“I wanted to put him in that situation against those guys, and he responded,” Roberts said. “I like the fastball velocity and the breaking ball. He’s done some good things.”

Up next came Alex Wood. In his fourth appearance since returning from the disabled list on Sept. 21, he struck out two in a scoreless inning. Wood is considered close to a lock to make the team.

The official word will not come for several days. By then, the Dodgers hope the memories of this last week will have faded away.

“In the next four days, we’re going to study and we’re going to get ready to roll,” veteran infielder Chase Utley said. “And we’ll see what happens Friday.”


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