His wish list was modest. As Dodgers manager Dave Roberts forecast his ideal outcome for Thursday’s series finale at Marlins Park, he listed a few reasonable goals: Kenta Maeda would pitch into the sixth inning. Someone — anyone — would hit a three-run home run. And Kenley Jansen would record a save.
A few hours later, after a 7-0 victory over the Marlins, Roberts could not quibble with the results. Maeda pitched eight scoreless innings, Justin Turner delivered a three-run double in the third inning and a two-run double in the fourth and Jansen protected the large lead in the ninth. The victory snapped a six-game losing streak and allowed hip-hop trio Migos to waft from the clubhouse speakers into Roberts’ office after the game.
“I thought the radios in the clubhouse were out in the last six days,” Roberts said. “But we fixed it.”
One victory will not fix these Dodgers (17-26). The problems remain numerous, a series of flaws exposed during this recent skid against the bottom-dwelling Reds and Marlins. But at least the Dodgers avoided being swept by a last-place team. They produced one of their best games of the season.
Maeda was dominant, striking out eight while leaning on his slider. Turner and outfielder Matt Kemp each collected three hits. The offense built off some momentum from Wednesday, when they produced a four-run rally in the sixth inning of an eventual loss. The Dodgers settled for incremental progress, aware of the size of the task before them.
“It starts with one win,” Kemp said. “And this was our one win.”
On Tuesday afternoon, as he scripted Turner’s return from the disabled list, Roberts scheduled an off day for Thursday. Then a couple of things happened to change his planning. Miami altered its starting rotation, so a left-handed pitcher started the series finale at Marlins Park. And the Dodgers kept losing.
“We need to get a win,” Roberts said before the game. “I wanted our best player out there.”
The atmosphere was unique. The game began just after 9 a.m. Pacific. The stadium was mostly empty, save for hundreds of children brought as a school trip. Their shrill cries echoed off the roof. Thunder rumbled outside the stadium and made the kids shriek.
The Dodgers provided some stimulation in the third inning as Marlins starter Caleb Smith unraveled. Smith was making only the 11th start of his career, although lack of experience matters little against these Dodgers. The offense could not touch Rule 5 pick Elieser Hernandez on Wednesday. Smith played a role in his own demise Thursday.
Smith set the kindling by walking Yasiel Puig to begin the third inning. Chris Taylor followed with a walk. When backup catcher Bryan Holaday failed to glove a high fastball, the passed ball moved the runners up. Smith loaded the bases by walking Austin Barnes. Turner stepped into the box for his 11th at-bat of the season.
When Smith pumped a 92-mph fastball at the top of the strike zone, Turner was ready. He pulled the baseball into the left-field corner to clear the bases.
“Just trying to make sure you get a good pitch to hit, something up in the zone,” Turner said. “We’ve been taking a lot of good swings with runners in scoring position, just hitting a lot of balls right at somebody. We got a few today where no one was standing.”
Another double followed as Kemp blasted another fastball over the head of Marlins center fielder Lewis Brinson. Turner scored as the ball bounced over the fence.
Smith did not return for the fourth inning. Into the game came reliever Junichi Tazawa. He did not fare well. Puig delivered his second home run in this series on an 86-mph fastball.
The Dodgers did not let up. Taylor hit a single. Barnes walked again. Turner saw seven pitches from Tazawa before finding one he could drive, a curveball over the heart of the plate. Turner roped it into left for a two-run double.
“As a collective group, we’ve done a good job of getting people on base — we just haven’t had that timely hit,” Kemp said. “We got one of our best hitters back, and he had a big day for us today. I think it relaxed everybody, and you saw some good things today.”
Maeda made the lead stick. He became just the third Dodgers starter to complete eight innings this season. His presence allowed Roberts to avoid his exhausted, unreliable bullpen.
Maeda operated under little stress. He permitted a double in the second inning and a single in the third. After that, he retired the final 17 batters he faced. Working with a big lead, a rarity for any Dodgers pitcher, did not hurt.
“We’ve talked about it for the past couple days. We definitely felt like we were scratching the surface and close to breaking out and having a big day and clicking,” Turner said. “Hopefully that feeling can stick, and we can put together a good run here.”