Kenta Maeda, 28, pitches with the Los Angeles Dodgers and made his first Canadian appearance on May 6th. Photo by: Jon Eto
Kenta Maeda’s pitching prowess is well documented in Japan, and his MLB debut has been nothing short of spectacular.
Maeda became the second Dodger pitcher since 1947 to hit a homerun in his MLB debut (off Andrew Cashner of the Padres on April 6, 2016) and is the first non-US born pitcher to ever do so in Major League Baseball history. It was the Dodger’s first of the season and he also pitched six scoreless innings for his first victory of the season winning 7-0. Ironically Maeda scored more runs than the entire San Diego Padres team as they shut them out their series outscoring them 25-0.
Maeda’s North American debut came on March 17, 2013 when he faced Puerto Rico in the semi-finals of the World Baseball Classic at AT&T Park in San Francisco. With only one earned run over 5 innings, the Japanese pitcher took the 3-1 loss getting Japan a bronze after earning gold in the two previous tournaments.
On April 23, 2016 he became the only pitcher in MLB history to allow only one run in his first four starts after going 6.1 innings and flirting with a no-no before giving up a hit versus the Rockies giving him a 3-0 record.
With Los Angeles having a rare two day off week before traveling to Canada, they shuffled their pitching rotation so Maeda could face the high powered right handed bats of the Jays. His counterpart was Toronto’s ace Marcus Stroman to profess a low-scoring game.
Maeda, a right-handed pitcher, is a two-time winner of the Eiji Sawamura Award for pitchers in the Nippon Professional Baseball league.
With a crowd over 42,000 fans on hand, the duo were impressive with five innings of shutout baseball, highlighted by the Jay’s only hit by hapa Japanese Blue Jay Darwin Barney, but was thrown out by a laser beam from LA right fielder Yasiel Puig to tag him trying to reach second. In the sixth, the Jays got on the board with a homerun by slugger Jose Bautista to take a 2-0 lead.
The top of the seventh saw the Dodgers restore a tie game but ultimately Kevin Pillar played hero with a three-run homer in the eighth. Maeda tallied a six inning, two hit, two run no-decision advancing his record to 3-1, with a 1.66 ERA and 0.95 WHIP.
The Jays lost the series 1-2, but Darwin Barney, who has been hot of late batting .461 in his last 13 at bats, went 4/6 in the batter’s box and is leading the team in batting average with .357 and in a 3-way tie for the team lead with 2 stolen bases with players over 40 plate appearances. Though he has been used sparingly with the Blue Jays, he was a former Golden Glove in 2012 with the Chicago Cubs.