Phillies @ Dodgers April 28, 2017: Maeda looks to regain confidence and command

Photo: Stacie Wheeler

The Dodgers return home to close out April with a three-game series against the Philadelphia Phillies after going 3-4 on a tough road trip.

Phillies
Dodgers
7:10 p.m.
Los Angeles
2B
Hernandez
CF
Toles
SS
Galvis
SS
Seager
CF
Herrera
3B
Turner
3B
Franco
1B
González
RF
Saunders
C
Grandal
LF
 Altherr
2B
Utley
1B
Joseph LF Bellinger
C
Rupp
RF
Hernandez
P
Eickhoff (R)
P
Maeda (R)

After the walk-off loss to the Giants on Wednesday night, capped off by a disastrous 10th inning, the Dodgers actually put together a good baseball game in the series finale on Thursday afternoon. A four-run 10th inning and 5-1 win gave the Dodgers a bit of extra innings revenge against San Francisco and a series split.

The Dodgers have only won one series so far this season, the opening set against the Padres. With the Phillies in town, they look to finish off the month with sparked offense and more consistent pitching. It might not be that easy, because the Phillies have been off to a good start this year. They are 11-9 and second in the NL East, having won six straight games coming into Friday’s series opener.

Philadelphia starter Jerad Eickhoff (0-1, 2.55 ERA, 3.50 FIP) faced the Dodgers once last August in Philly and allowed four runs on seven hits in six innings. Justin Turner and Yasmani Grandal both hit home runs against the right-hander, but the Phillies still edged out the Dodgers with a 5-4 win. Although the Phils haven’t given Eickhoff much run support, he’s been reliable. He’s pitched six or more innings in 26 of 37 starts the last two seasons and has struck out more than one batter per inning this season.

Some offense against the Eickhoff would be nice, but all eyes will be on Kenta Maeda (1-2, 8.05 ERA, 6.55 FIP) tonight. After two excellent starts by Alex Wood and Julio Urias, along with the imminent return of Rich Hill, Kenta Maeda feels the pressure to regain his form and perform to expectations. He was the most consistent Dodger starter in 2016, but Maeda has not had his fine-tuned command in his first four starts this year. He’s allowed seven home runs this year, tied with Tyler Chatwood for second-most in the NL. He’s served up an uncharacteristic 17 earned runs on 24 hits in 19 innings pitched. It hasn’t been pretty.

Maeda will have the opportunity to regain his command and confidence against the Phillies on Friday evening after getting a few extra days rest. Dave Roberts has been able to work in extra days for Kenta to lighten his workload a bit to try to avoid fatigue, something that affected Maeda down the stretch last season. Yet his recent struggles are more than fatigue.

Chad wrote about the problem with his fastball. Without the usual bite on his fastball, perhaps because of a slight uptick on velocity plus more frequent use of the pitch this year (53.4 percent) over last year (35.7 percent), he’s inducing less groundballs (27.6 percent) than last season (43.9 percent), many of them going over the fence for homers. Here’s to hoping some work on his mechanics during the extra time off will help him get back into his regular Maeda groove.

Brim also wrote about Maeda and what to do with him given his contract situation. I’m glad I’m not the one who is ultimately making the decision, because sending Maeda to the bullpen feels wrong even if the move is justified due to poor performance. The veteran pitcher deserves time to make the adjustments needed and to right the ship. Even though there are other starting pitching options available, an effective and reliable Maeda is an important part of the top end of the Dodgers’ rotation not only this season but for the next six seasons as well.

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Enrique Hernandez gets the start in right field, and Yasiel Puig finally gets a day off after playing in every inning up to this point for the Dodgers. Chase Utley is at second base, facing his old team. Cody Bellinger is in left field, batting seventh and making his Dodger Stadium debut.

The Dodgers signed utility guy Max Muncy to a minor-league deal.

In other injury/roster news:

About Stacie Wheeler

Stacie Wheeler

Stacie Wheeler, born and raised in So Cal, has been writing about the Dodgers since 2010. She wrote daily as the Co-Editor of Lasorda’s Lair for five long years, and she has also written for Dodgers Nation and Dodger Blue 1958. She currently contributes to The Hardball Times. Stacie graduated from the University Of Southern California with a bachelor’s degree in Cinema-Television. You can also watch her videos on her YouTube channel, DishingUpTheDodgers.