If Maeda feels squeeze, he doesn’t show it in win

Los Angeles Times - - BASEBALL - By Andy McCul­lough andy.mccul­lough@la­times.com Twit­ter: @McCul­loughTimes

AT­LANTA — Years ago, Dodgers pitcher Kenta Maeda trained with Yu Dar vish. When Maeda be­came an All-Star in Nip­pon Pro­fes­sional Base­ball, Darvish in­vited him to din­ner. Over time, Maeda was able to pick the brain of Japan’s most cel­e­brated pitcher.

Yet on Mon­day, when the Dodgers ac­quired Darvish from the Texas Rangers, Maeda served as one of the po­ten­tial ca­su­al­ties.

With Darvish in the fold, Maeda has been ef­fec­tively squeezed out of the play­off ro­ta­tion — if Clay­ton Ker­shaw, Alex Wood and Rich Hill are all sound by Oc­to­ber.

The re­al­ity did not ham­per Maeda in a 3-2 vic­tory over the At­lanta Braves on Tues­day. In one of his best starts in 2017, Maeda lim­ited At­lanta to two hits in seven score­less in­nings. He struck out six as the Dodgers (7531) won their ninth in a row.

“There are only a lim­ited amount of spots,” Maeda said. “It’s not in my power to be able to in­flu­ence that. What I try to do is make sure that I pro­duce ev­ery time I get the op­por­tu­nity.”

Since re­join­ing the ro­ta­tion in late June, Maeda has de­liv­ered a 2.20 earned-run av­er­age in six starts.

He will con­tinue to jockey for in­nings with Hyun-Jin Ryu and Bran­don McCarthy as the sea­son con­tin­ues. Man­ager Dave Roberts ex­pected the pitch­ers to em­brace their op­por­tu­ni­ties.

“They’re all a part of it,” Roberts said be­fore the game. “They’ve been a part of it from the be­gin­ning. We’ve got a lot of un­selfish play­ers, and they’re go­ing to do what’s best for the team.”

The score tight­ened in the eighth in­ning when reliever Josh Ravin gave up a two-run home run to Braves short­stop Jo­han Ca­margo. Tony Wat­son, an­other Dodgers new­comer ac­quired at the trade dead­line, re­placed Ravin and pitched a score­less in­ning.

The Dodgers man­u­fac­tured three runs against Braves rookie Lu­cas Sims, who made his ma­jor league de­but. Yasiel Puig dou­bled and scored on a dou­ble by Chris Tay­lor in the third. Cody Bellinger swat­ted his 29th homer in the fourth. And Puig ben­e­fited from un­nec­es­sary ag­gres­sion in the fifth, scor­ing af­ter At­lanta catcher Tyler Flow­ers air­mailed a throw to third as Puig tried to steal.

“I think Yasiel thought he was in­vis­i­ble,” Roberts said. “He had a bad jump. But some­how Flow­ers threw it into left field.”

Wat­son joins ’pen

Wat­son spent a decade with the Pitts­burgh Pi­rates. They drafted him in 2007, brought him to the ma­jors in 2012 and used him as a reliever dur­ing two play­off runs.

So he said he felt bit­ter­sweet when he learned Mon­day that he was leav­ing the or­ga­ni­za­tion — sad to leave the only team he had known, thrilled to join a team surg­ing to­ward a fifth di­vi­sion ti­tle in a row.

“You can feel it right away,” Wat­son said. “The en­ergy in here is great. Guys are show­ing up ex­cited to come to the ball­park. It’s con­ta­gious. It’s in­fec­tious. You can just tell that ev­ery­body’s hav­ing a good time.”

In his score­less in­ning Tues­day, Wat­son gave up a lead­off sin­gle be­fore col­lect­ing three swift outs, in­clud­ing a soft li­ne­out from left­handed bat­ter Fred­die Free­man.

“I wanted to see him face Free­man,” Roberts said. “That’s the rea­son we got him.”

Wat­son was one of two left-handed re­liev­ers the Dodgers ac­quired Mon­day. They also dealt for Cincin­nati Reds vet­eran Tony Cin­grani, who will join the team Thurs­day.

Wat­son has a 3.66 ERA af­ter a rocky June. He posted a 2.53 ERA in July.

“I’ve been up and down, hon­estly,” Wat­son said. “I had a rough stretch early on, giv­ing up some hard con­tact. Just wasn’t who I am. These last cou­ple weeks, I’ve got­ten back to [be­ing] my­self, and who I am, pound­ing the strike zone and at­tack­ing the hit­ters. I’ll try to con­tinue that here.”

Short hops

The ex­per­i­ment to turn Brett Eib­ner into a pitcher has ended on an op­er­at­ing ta­ble. Eib­ner un­der­went el­bow lig­a­ment re­place­ment surgery Tues­day af­ter suf­fer­ing an arm in­jury while throw­ing bullpen ses­sions in the ma­jors and with triple-A Ok­la­homa City. Eib­ner had not played since July 7. He did not pitch in a game.

John Bazemore As­so­ci­ated Press

KENTA MAEDA de­liv­ered one of his strong­est out­ings of the sea­son Tues­day night in a 3-2 vic­tory over the At­lanta Braves, giv­ing up two hits in seven score­less in­nings and strik­ing out six.

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