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By Jon Weisman
Tonight, Kenta Maeda did to the Padres what no hitter could do against Kenta Maeda: Round the bases.
In the midst of helping Dodger pitchers break the 23-inning, franchise-record season-opening scoreless inning streak, Maeda came to bat in the fourth inning of his MLB debut — rushing to get to home plate after A.J. Ellis’ first-pitch groundout — and hit a no-doubt home run to left field off Andrew Cashner.
Working to suppress a smile until he crossed home plate, Maeda became (according to the Elias Sports Bureau) the first Dodger to hit a home run in his MLB debut since Jose Offerman on August 19, 1990. The last Dodger pitcher to do it was Dan Bankhead on August 26, 1947.
Meanwhile, on the mound, after being staked to a 4-0 first-inning lead, Maeda carved through the Padre lineup, echoing the debuts of his predecessors in age and country. Retiring 10 of the first 11 batters he faced, Maeda ultimately completed six innings of shutout ball on 84 pitches, allowing five hits, walking none and striking out four, before leaving with a 5-0 lead.
The first big threat Maeda faced came in the fourth inning, when Matt Kemp and Wil Myers singled with one out. But first baseman Adrian Gonzalez made two dexterous plays to prevent a run from scoring, first throwing home for a fielder’s choice, then underhanding from distance to Maeda for a 3-1 putout.
In the sixth, San Diego once again threatened. Two calls in the inning were examined by replay, and in this charmed series, both went the Dodgers’ way.
After Jon Jay singled to lead off the single, Cory Spangenberg hit a grounder that Corey Seager backhanded and threw to Chase Utley. Utley dropped the ball, allowing Jay to be ruled safe, but that call was overturned after replay showed that Utley picked up the ball from the ground and touched second base ahead of Jay.
Upon further review … pic.twitter.com/hRJrl21IiL
— Dodger Insider (@DodgerInsider) April 7, 2016
Then, after Kemp singled Spangenberg to third, Wil Myers hit a grounder to Gonzalez, who threw home to A.J. Ellis for a tag at home. San Diego challenged that call, and it was tough to judge, but ultimately there wasn’t enough evidence to overturn the call. Maeda then fanned Yangervis Solarte to end the inning.
In contrast, Cashner struggled from the outset. He threw 43 pitches in the first inning, more than Maeda used in his first three innings. As he did on Opening Day, Chase Utley ignited the action, hitting a triple. Justin Turner and Carl Crawford added RBI hits before Joc Pederson singled home two.
For more on the game, click here.