LOS ANGELES -- In his first four starts in the Major Leagues, Kenta Maeda was as good as the Dodgers could have hoped for, allowing just one earned run in 25 1/3 innings. In the four starts since, including Monday night's 7-6 loss to the Angels, he's allowed 14 runs and shown little ability to establish his fastball.
Maeda picked up his second career RBI with a second-inning single in the Freeway Series opener at Dodger Stadium, but on the mound he labored again, missing targets and relying on his offspeed pitches to get through innings.
"I do feel like I need to use my fastball more," Maeda said through an interpreter. "I've been relying a little bit on my offspeed pitches. I'll make my adjustment next time around."
A 26-pitch, four-run third inning eventually forced manager Dave Roberts to end Maeda's night early, pinch-hitting for him in the fourth. It was a decision based on preventing the Angels' lineup from seeing Maeda a third time and the fact that a certain other pitcher would be on the mound for the Dodgers on Tuesday, making the bullpen a little more expendable.
"The command wasn't there. So I think after that stressful third and the fourth, it wasn't really clean, you get the top of the order coming up," Roberts said. "Third time they would have seen him, so at that point in time, I went to the 'pen. We've got [Clayton] Kershaw going tomorrow, the 'pen's rested, so I wanted to keep the game close."
It's worth noting that Maeda is coming from eight years pitching in Japan's top league, where pitchers only throw once per week.
While fatigue could be a reason for Maeda's struggles, it's more likely that hitters are adjusting to what Maeda showed in those first four starts. It will be on Maeda to learn how to push back.
"He's been slider-heavy," Roberts said. "The more hitters see you and start to know your tendencies, they make adjustments. It's hard to make a living as a starting pitcher pitching off your slider. I just know Kenta's got great fastball command. It's just one of those cat-and-mouse things, where they adjust to you and you've got adjust to them.
Jack Baer is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.