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Kenta Maeda completes NL West gauntlet in style with Coors Field brilliance

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"5 1/3 innings without a hit is pretty cool. Almost as cool as 7 1/3."
"5 1/3 innings without a hit is pretty cool. Almost as cool as 7 1/3."
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

This is a full-fledged mania now, right? Kenta Maeda completed his first foray through the National League West gauntlet, saving his best for the last and toughest leg of the relay. Maeda was brilliant again on Saturday night in the Dodgers' 4-1 win over the Rockies at Coors Field in Denver.

Maeda kept the Rockies off balance all night, striking out a career-high eight batters in his third win of the season.

He even took a no-hitter into the sixth inning, aided greatly by a fantastic catch from Kike Hernandez in left field to end the fifth. Maeda's chance to pull a Hideo Nomo were dashed by DJ LeMahieu with a single to center with one out in the sixth.

That single was followed by two more in succession, including one of the infield variety by Carlos Gonzalez to load the bases with one out.

Here's how right Maeda has been living in 2016: that single by Gonzalez was the first hit all year against Maeda with runners in scoring position, and it didn't score a run. Batters are 1-for-17 (.059) with two walks against Maeda with RISP, and that includes the two big outs he got on Saturday to end the threat.

Defending co-NL home run leader Nolan Arenado first popped up to Chase Utley at second base, then cleanup man Gerardo Parra tapped back to Maeda for a force at home to keep the Rockies off the board.

Maeda pitched to one batter in the seventh inning — Ryan Raburn — and struck him out, but was then removed after 94 pitches.

It was just the eighth start by a Dodgers pitcher without allowing a run at Coors Field, which opened in 1995.

Maeda became just the fourth Dodgers pitcher, at least since 1913, to open his career with four consecutive quality starts, one shy of the record of five straight set by Danny McDevitt, Don Sutton and Pedro Astacio.

Maeda has allowed just one run in his first four big league starts. To go with his 0.36 ERA, Maeda has 23 strikeouts and five walks in his 23⅓ innings.

Maeda might not have pulled a Nomo, but his performance to date deserves a full-fledged mania, or whatever you want to call it. This was the best suggestion I saw on Twitter:

Offense

A.J. Ellis came into Saturday just 4-for-26 (.154) on the season, but was in the middle of just about everything for the Dodgers on Saturday. He hit a two-run shot in the second inning, a no-doubter deep into the left field seats against Tyler Chatwood, the culmination of a seven-pitch battle that went full.

Then Ellis singled in the sixth inning and scored on a double to left by Chase Utley, giving the Dodgers an insurance run that at the time put them up 4-0.

Utley's double was one of three hits on the night, extending his hitting streak to six games. Utley is hitting .333 (9-for-27) during the streak, and on the season is hitting .317 with a .377 on-base percetage.

Up next

The Dodgers try for the a fourth straight series win on Sunday afternoon, with Alex Wood starting a 1:10 p.m. PT game. Jordan Lyles starts for Colorado in the series finale.

Saturday particulars

Home run: A.J. Ellis (1)

WP - Kenta Maeda (3-0): 6⅓ IP, 3 hits, 1 walk, 8 strikeouts

LP - Tyler Chatwood (2-2): 4 IP, 6 hits, 3 runs, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts

Sv - Kenley Jansen (8): 1 IP, 1 srikeout