Rookie Japanese star allows one total run in first four big league starts
By Andrew Simon
In the past century, no pitcher has started a career quite like the Dodgers' Kenta Maeda.
Even Coors Field could not slow down the 28-year-old Japan native on Saturday night, as he took a no-hitter into the sixth and finished with 6 1/3 scoreless innings in a 4-1 win over the Rockies. Maeda allowed three singles and one walk while striking out a career-best eight and lowering his ERA to 0.36.
That performance made Maeda the first pitcher since at least 1913 to introduce himself to big league fans by allowing only one total run over his first four games, all as a starter. Just one other pitcher, the Indians' Cody Anderson last year, had opened with four consecutive starts of at least six innings pitched and no more than one run allowed.
While Anderson gave up three runs total over that span, Maeda has surrendered only one, on a solo homer by the Giants' Joe Panik last Sunday at Dodger Stadium. Through 25 1/3 innings, opponents have managed only 17 hits (three for extra bases) and five walks (one intentional) against Maeda, while striking out 23 times.
Here are some other facts and figures to know from Maeda's sensational start:
• Only one other pitcher since 1913 has gone at least six scoreless innings in three of his first four career starts. That was Dave Ferriss, who tossed three shutouts in his first four outings with the '45 Red Sox.
• The last pitcher before Maeda to record a Game Score of 65 or greater in each of his first four career starts was Steve Rogers, with the 1973 Expos.
• Through the years, other rookie starters from Japan have found immediate success, though none to quite the same extent. Hideo Nomo, who won the National League Rookie of the Year Award with the Dodgers in 1995, allowed 10 runs over his first four outings, going five innings or fewer in three of them and once issuing seven walks. Hiroki Kuroda, who started with the Dodgers 13 years later, posted a 2.92 ERA across 24 2/3 innings over his opening four games. Daisuke Matsuzaka struck out 31 for the '07 Red Sox but gave up 12 runs, including six in his fourth outing. In '12, Yu Darvish allowed five earned runs in his debut for the Rangers before settling down. Two years ago, Masahiro Tanaka came out strong for the Yankees (29 1/3 innings, 35 strikeouts), but he still allowed seven more runs than Maeda.
• Only two previous Los Angeles Dodgers had started their careers with four consecutive quality starts: Hall of Famer Don Sutton in 1966 and Pedro Astacio in '92.
• Maeda is the 13th pitcher since 1913 to hold the opposition to five hits or fewer over at least six innings in each of his first four games. The last was Jacob deGrom in 2014, while other active pitchers to have accomplished the feat include Johnny Cueto, Michael Pineda and Jered Weaver.
• Maeda still has scored and driven in as many runs as he has allowed, thanks to the solo home run he hit at San Diego in his debut on April 6.
• When Carlos Gonzalez came to the plate in Saturday's sixth inning and poked a well-placed infield single to load the bases, it was the first hit Maeda had allowed with a runner in scoring position this season. He then buckled down and retired Nolan Arenado and Gerardo Parra, making opponents 1-for-17 with two walks in those situations.
• During the first time through the order against Maeda, teams are 3-for-32 with one double, three walks and 10 strikeouts.
Andrew Simon is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.