It was just last week when the Cubs knocked Kenta Maeda out of the game before he could get through four innings. Maeda struggled to throw strikes, walking five and allowing three runs and five hits.
A very different Maeda took the mound Monday and blanked Chicago over seven strong innings, making the limited offense hold up in a 2-1 Dodgers win.
The victory means the Dodgers slip into the second wild card spot in the National League, putting them in a playoff spot for the first time all year.
It was the fourth time Maeda held the opponent without a run in 13 starts this season. The 30-year-old gave up just three hits and a walk while striking out out nine.
The Dodgers are now 5-0 when Maeda strikes out at least eight.
The theme of homers in June continued for the Dodgers as they chase the franchise record they set last June. Kiké Hernandez clubbed his 13th of the year in the second inning and Chris Taylor came off the bench in the eighth with another solo shot to pad the lead.
The tally is up to 48 home runs as a team for the Dodgers this month, with five more games to go. The 2017 squad hit 53 in an impressive display of power that didn’t seem likely to be duplicated. It’s certainly possible for that record to fall this week.
The Dodgers loaded the bases in the first inning against Duane Underwood Jr in his major league debut. Despite a 14-pitch walk for Matt Kemp and forcing Underwood to throw 41 pitches, the home team came away empty.
Neither team had much going on offense but the Cubs couldn’t breakthrough with any of their seven singles. The opportunities to score evaporated due to the double play in multiple innings.
The fifth inning started with back-to-back singles and the bottom of Chicago’s order coming up. Catcher Chris Gimenez attempted to bunt and popped it up to Yasmani Grandal who jumped out from behind the plate. Grandal fired the ball down to second to double-off Kyle Schwarber.
The Cubs again had the first two batters reach with singles in the eight and came away empty. Scott Alexander got himself out of the jam with a pair of ground balls, the latter resulting in a 6-4-3 twin killing.
Chicago made it interesting in the ninth with a pair of singles and a sacrifice fly to cut the 2-0 lead in half, but Kenley Jansen was able to shut the door for his 20th save of the year.
The Dodgers are now 16-5 in June and 26-9 in their last 35.
Ross Stripling will take the ball for the Dodgers against Jon Lester in a rematch of Wednesday’s series finale in Chicago.
Home runs: Kiké Hernández (13) Chris Taylor (9)
WP - Kenta Maeda (5-4): 7 IP, 3 hits, 1 walk, 9 strikeouts
LP - Duane Underwood Jr (0-1): 4 IP, 2 hits, 1 run, 3 walk, 3 strikeouts
SV - Kenley Jansen (20): 1 IP, 2 hits, 1 run