Maeda's start just what Dodgers need vs. Rockies

Maeda's start just what Dodgers need vs. Rockies

DENVER -- By Dave Roberts standards, the 5 2/3 innings Kenta Maeda threw in the Dodgers' 4-2 win over the Rockies on Thursday night were even better than a quality start.

"It was a quality, quality start," said Roberts. "Where we were at tonight, for Kenta to do what he did was huge. Talk about guys picking each other up, he's right at the top of the list."

After the Dodgers got starts of two batters, three innings and four innings the three previous games, Maeda mastered Coors Field and the potent Rockies lineup for the second time this rookie season after throwing 6 1/3 scoreless innings in an April 23 win, his first time pitching a mile high.

Maeda said he was annoyed with himself for hanging a slider for a single to Mark Reynolds with two out in the sixth inning. His pitch count was at 96, he was facing the Rockies lineup for the third time and he was removed for Pedro Baez, who was followed by Joe Blanton and Kenley Jansen.

"What I want to do is go deeper in games," said Maeda. "I'm aware the pitching staff is a little stressed and I want to prepare better and go more innings in each game."

Catcher Yasmani Grandal, whose two-run triple was the difference in the game, said Maeda's ability to throw sharp breaking pitches in a thin-air environment that rattles many veterans is a tribute to the Japanese right-hander's toughness.

"I feel like that's all mental," Grandal said. "A lot of guys don't get a feel for the ball because it's dry. But if you tell yourself you don't have feel for the ball, you won't have it even more. Mentally, he stays within himself and he's going to throw his spin because that's what he's lived off. His slider was really good today. He made one mistake to David Dahl [a two-run homer], but after that he was lights-out."

Maeda, who failed his signing physical, leading to an incentive-laden contract because of health concerns, leads the Dodgers staff with 125 2/3 innings, 22 starts and 10 wins. Grandal said Maeda might be more effective now than ever because he rediscovered his changeup.

"Early in the year we had to basically bang his changeup because they just weren't good, no movement on it, it came out of his hand for a ball right away and the hitters knew it," he said. "But he worked on it and got it to the point where it does what he wants to do. He could be lethal once he uses all four pitches, instead of the curve, slider and just showing the fastball.

"As of late, he's been able to attack guys and not go so much to his breaking ball. The changeup played really well tonight, got good motion with it and spreading the fastball all through the strike zone, going back to what he does best, spinning the curveball and slider and getting soft ground balls and fly balls."

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.