Marlins @ Dodgers April 28, 2016: Maeda Mania vs. Fernandez in Series Finale

The Dodgers have their work cut out for them on Thursday evening when they try to avoid a four-game series sweep by the Miami Marlins with Jose Fernandez on the mound.

Kenta Maeda is just the right person to hand the ball to for the Dodgers in the series finale. The rookie sensation has been dominant and has had a historic start to his MLB career.

7:10 p.m. PT
Los Angeles
 Realmuto  3B  Kendrick

There are certainly areas of the Dodgers’ roster to worry about including the starting pitching rotation, but the front office has to be commended for their signing of Maeda during the offseason.  Nobody could have predicted the magnitude of Zack Greinke‘s struggles so far with Arizona, but Maeda’s much more affordable contract has already been paying dividends.

It’s still April, but Maeda is currently the National League ERA leader (0.36), tied for 5th in WHIP (0.87), 9th in FIP (2.92) and opposing batters are hitting .189 against him and .133 against his effective slider. He has only allowed one earned run in his first 25 1/3 innings with 5 walks and 23 strikeouts.

Maeda’s first four career starts have been among the best in MLB history.

His tenacity and impeccable control was on display in his last start against a offensively robust Colorado lineup and in the notoriously thin air of Coors Field. Channeling his inner Hideo Nomo, Maeda threw 6 1/3 innings of shutout ball allowing just 3 hits with 1 walk and 8 strikeouts on 94 pitches. He made it look effortless.

Maeda is guaranteed at least $3 million this year. Even if he earns $13 million, which includes all of the incentives worked into his contract, it looks as if the small-market approach Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi employed when they signed him certainly will pay off for this large-market team even when he regresses.

Don Mattingly‘s Marlins have their own ace up their sleeve with the formidable Jose Fernandez (1-2, 4.37) on the mound. He has already racked up 32 strikeouts in 22 2/3 innings pitched, good for second in the NL with a 12.71 K/9. He is 7th in FIP (2.45).

Fernandez is 2-0 with a 2.84 ERA against the Dodgers in 3 career starts, one at Dodger Stadium. Carl Crawford is 4-for-8 against Fernandez, and Adrian Gonzalez is the only current Dodger to have hit a home run against him.

The Dodgers will not only need another solid outing from Maeda, but they also must keep Giancarlo Stanton in check who is already 4-for-10 with three monstrous home runs in the series.

Justin Turner has the night off, and Howie Kendrick (.143/.160/.303) starts at third base.

A moment to watch for: Maeda looked up to Ichiro Suzuki growing up in Japan, and he will get the opportunity to face him on Thursday night. Suzuki is sixth in Mattingly’s lineup and will start in center field.

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About 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, Dodger Blue 1958 and The Hardball Times. She currently contributes to True Blue LA. 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.