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Dodgers back Kenta Maeda with four homers to beat Phillies

Dodgers back Kenta Maeda with four homers to beat Phillies
Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson, left, is congratulated by teammate Cody Bellinger after hitting a solo home run against the Philadelphia Phillies in the fifth inning on Friday at Dodger Stadium. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Corey Seager was taken aback Friday night when informed of the number of wins the Dodgers are on pace to accumulate through the season’s first two months. After rolling to a 6-3 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies behind a familiar formula to conclude the month of May with a 19-7 record and improve their overall mark to 39-19, the Dodgers are on pace to win 109 games. That would set a franchise record and obliterate the divisional competition.

“That's a lot,” Seager noted.

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The Dodgers finished May how they spent most of its first 30 days: pounding baseballs and riding a quality start to beat an opponent. On Friday, it was Kenta Maeda delivering a stout six-inning performance while the offense scored its runs on four homers from different power sources in front of an announced sellout crowd of 54,307 at Dodger Stadium — the largest in the regular season since 2012 — for the club’s annual LGBT night.

Maeda held the Phillies (33-24) to two runs on three hits over six innings. He didn’t walk a batter, plunked one, and tallied six strikeouts before exiting with 88 pitches. The outing completed an exceptional month of starting pitching for the Dodgers. The group led the majors in earned-run average (2.50), WHIP (0.93), innings per start (6.36), and strikeout-to-walk ratio (7.41) in 26 games. They logged at least six innings in 22 games, walked more than two batters once, and allowed fewer than three runs 15 times.

The performances fueled a month in which the Dodgers didn’t lose consecutive games while posting four winning streaks of at least three games. They will enter June with an 8-1/2-game lead over the second-place San Diego Padres in the National League West.

“I still think that if we get a few things tightened up, we can be even better,” said bench coach Bob Geren, who served as acting manager in Dave Roberts’ absence. “But i think anybody would take that.”

While Roberts attended his son’s high school graduation, the Dodgers loaded their lineup with six left-handed hitters — all populating the top six spots — with reason: Left-handed batters entered Friday performing at an all-star level against Jake Arrieta. While right-handed hitters were batting .230 with a .598 on-base-plus-slugging percentage against the former Cy Young Award winner, those in the opposite batter’s box had compiled a .283 batting average and .865 OPS. Six of the nine home runs Arrieta allowed this season were against left-handed hitters. That total ballooned Friday.

After Joc Pederson, the Dodgers’ leadoff man, reached on an infield single, Max Muncy opened the scoring in the third inning by lashing a slider over the right-field fence for a two-run home run. Two innings later, Pederson smashed his 17th home run — a 445-foot leadoff blast to the back of the right-field pavilion. Muncy followed with a single before Seager launched his seventh home run.

“You can’t miss middle-in with spin to power-hitting lefty hitters,” Arrieta said. “That’s what I did.”

The blows knocked Arrieta out after five innings. He gave up five runs on 10 hits and threw 97 pitches. Enrique Hernandez, one of the three right-handed hitters in the Dodgers’ starting lineup, added a 432-foot moonshot in the eighth inning off Juan Nicasio to complete the power display.

“It is different than anything else we've faced,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said.

Maeda did not break a sweat the first time through the Phillies’ lineup, which featured five right-handed hitters and, Geren said, made it susceptible to Maeda’s biting slider. He retired the nine batters in order and punched out five of them. He threw 38 pitches, including 15 sliders, and generated 11 swings-and-misses.

But his continued heavy slider usage spawned rougher waters to begin his second time through the lineup. He threw three straight sliders to Andrew McCutchen, the Phillies’ leadoff hitter, to start the fourth inning. The third offering, a meaty 82-mph slider, was walloped over the wall in straightaway center field to soil the perfect game, no-hitter, and shutout with one swat.

Another hanging slider — and a defensive hiccup behind him — hurt Maeda in the fifth inning. With two on and one out, Maeda got Nick Williams to hit a groundball to first baseman Matt Beaty, who fired the ball to second base in an attempt to start an inning-ending double play. But his off-balance throw to Seager bounced, which didn’t give Seager enough time to finish the play. So Williams reached base, giving Arrieta the chance to crack a slider to left field to tie the game for the Phillies.

Maeda limited the damage there and the Dodgers’ unyielding offense ensured the latest quality start was enough once again.

“We’re kind of clicking on all cylinders,” Seager said.

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