Kenta Maeda entered the All-Star break spitting hot fire, obliterating his season high in strikeouts, but more importantly gave the Dodgers some much-needed length in Sunday's 3-1 win over the Padres at Dodger Stadium.
Maeda struck out 13 on Sunday, four more than his previous high, and walked none. He allowed only two hits, one a home run by Derek Norris in the fifth inning. But after the home run, Maeda struck out the next six batters and retired his final eight batters faced.
It was just the 15th game since 1913 by a Dodger with at least 13 strikeouts and no walks. The seven innings matched Maeda's longest start of the season, along with April 17 against San Francisco.
Even with the pile up of strikeouts he needed only 97 pitches to get through seven innings, the first time a Dodgers starter lasted that long since Clayton Kershaw on June 20, 19 games ago. But the situation was even more dire than that, with no Dodger starting pitcher lasting even six innings since July 2.
Entering the finale of the 10-game homestand on Sunday, Dodgers relief pitchers had thrown more innings (44) than the starters (42) in the last nine games, but Maeda was able to turn that around.
Maeda was the first non-Kershaw Dodgers starter to last seven innings since Scott Kazmir (8⅔) on May 14 against St. Louis.
That game against the Cardinals was also memorable for another reason, as it featured a home run by Adrian Gonzalez at Dodger Stadium.
On Sunday he hit another, his first home home run since May 14, snapping a dry spell of 115 plate appearances at Dodger Stadium. It was the first home run for Gonzalez anywhere since June 11, with a homerless span of 27 games and 111 plate appearances in between.
But outside of home runs, Gonzalez has been hot of late, ever since he took himself out of the starting lineup for the final two games in Pittsburgh on June 26-27. After that series against the Pirates, Gonzalez is 20-for-44 (.455) with six doubles, 10 walks and now a home run to go with his 11 RBI in his last 13 games.
The home run by Gonzalez gave the Dodgers a 3-1 advantage. The first two runs featured prominent involvement from another veteran heating up of late, with Howie Kendrick going 3-for-4.
Kendrick doubled in the first inning and scored on a single by Corey Seager, then singled in the second inning to drive home Scott Van Slyke. So far in July, Kendrick is hitting .351 (13-for-37) with six doubles, a home run and three walks in 10 games.
Joe Blanton struck out a batter in the eighth inning and Kenley Jansen fanned two in the ninth, giving the Dodgers 866 strikeouts as a team, the most in baseball this season, 12 more than Washington, who has played one fewer game.
The Dodgers head into the break on a high note, with three straight wins, and for the third consecutive season see themselves at 51-40.
Nothing until Friday in Phoenix, except for Corey Seager on Monday, and Kenley Jansen and Seager on Tuesday at the All-Star Game in San Diego.
Home runs: Adrian Gonzalez (7); Derek Norris (12)
WP - Kenta Maeda (8-6): 7 IP, 2 hits, 13 strikeouts
LP - Christian Friedrich (4-5): 5 IP, 7 hits, 3 runs, 1 walks, 7 strikeouts
Sv - Kenley Jansen (27): 1 IP, 1 hit, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts