Kenta Maeda didn't have a feel for his slider, and his fastball command was off in the first inning Sunday night. The Dodgers right-hander went to three 3-0 counts, walked two and needed 24 pitches to complete the inning against the San Francisco Giants without allowing a run.
Maeda needed only 74 pitches to navigate the next six innings, his seven-inning, one-run, four-hit, seven-strikeout effort improving him to 2-0 with an 0.47 earned-run average.
"You really don't know what to expect from Kenta — when you see video, you wonder how [his performance in Japan] is going to translate here," Manager Dave Roberts said. "But if you look at him after three starts, yeah, he has exceeded expectations. He's throwing the ball as well as anyone in baseball right now."
Maeda, who threw six shutout innings in each of his first two starts, took the mound looking to become the first pitcher since 1900 to open his major league career with three straight scoreless starts of at least six innings.
That bid ended in the third when Maeda hung a 2-2 slider to Joe Panik, who homered to right for a 1-0 Giants lead.
The consolation prize: Maeda's 142/3-inning scoreless streak to start his career is the third-longest in Dodgers history, behind Dave Stewart (181/3 innings in 1978 and 1981) and Bob Welch (151/3 innings in 1978).
"I wasn't too concerned with the streak," Maeda said through an interpreter. "After the home run, I thought I was able to pitch tough."
Maeda ran into trouble in the fourth when Hunter Pence and Brandon Belt singled. But shortstop Corey Seager turned Matt Duffy's grounder up the middle into a double play. After Brandon Crawford was walked intentionally, Maeda struck out Jeff Samardzija.
Maeda helped himself in the seventh when he fielded Samardzija's bunt on a hop and made a long throw to second to start an inning-ending double play.
"Kenta is so athletic, and he does a lot of things well," Roberts said. "He was aggressive, took [the bunt] on a short hop and made a good, strong throw to second. That was a huge double play right there."
See Yasiel run
Yasiel Puig led off the seventh with a single to center and stole second with a head-first slide. Yasmani Grandal, who has reached base in six straight plate appearances, followed with an infield single, with Crawford, the Giants' shortstop, making a diving stop of the ball in shallow center field.
Puig barely slowed around third and tested the strong-armed Crawford, whose throw skipped away from catcher Buster Posey as Puig slid head-first into the plate for a 3-1 lead.