Kenta Maeda was one of the biggest stories of the season's first month, but now he's looking to adjust after major league hitters have seemingly caught up with him more recently.
The Japanese import remains confident he'll be able to return to his earlier form Sunday when the visiting Los Angeles Dodgers try to avoid their fifth straight defeat in the finale of this three-game series against the San Diego Padres.
Maeda, a five-time All-Star overseas, seemed to make a smooth transition when he became the first pitcher to allow one run over his first four big-league starts. At the time, he was 3-0 with a MLB-best 0.36 ERA among those with at least 20 innings.
The right-hander, however, has since struggled with a 0-3 record and 5.82 ERA in his last four outings. He's looking to regroup following perhaps his worst effort Monday when he allowed four runs over four innings in a 7-6 loss to the Angels.
Maeda said he plans to respond by using his fastball more as he tries to help the Dodgers (21-23) avert their first sweep in San Diego since September 2010. Manager Dave Roberts believes hitters are sitting on the rookie's offspeed pitches.
"He's been slider-heavy," Roberts told MLB's official website. "The more hitters see you and start to know your tendencies, they make adjustments. It's hard to make a living as a starting pitcher pitching off your slider. I just know Kenta's got great fastball command."
Roberts' club had a 7.88 ERA during its three-game skid before six pitchers held San Diego to five hits and totaled 19 strikeouts Saturday. Chin-Hui Tsao, though, walked Yangervis Solarte with the bases loaded to give the Padres a 3-2, 11-inning win.
"I'm really excited," Solarte said. "I'm just here to help the team."
Maeda (3-3, 2.87 ERA) didn't have much trouble in his first meeting with San Diego (19-25), limiting the Padres to five hits over six innings in a 7-0 road win April 6. Matt Kemp, however, saw the ball well against him with two singles in three at-bats.
After sitting out Friday's 7-6 victory that came on Melvin Upton Jr.'s walk-off home run, Kemp was hitless with three strikeouts in four at-bats upon his return. Wil Myers has been a headache for Los Angeles pitching in this series, going 5 for 8 with two runs.
The Padres will give the ball to Colin Rea (3-2, 4.37) as they try to match a season high with their third straight win and avenge the Dodgers' sweep at Petco Park in April.
Since going 3-1 with a 2.61 ERA over a five-start stretch, the second-year right-hander has posted an 0-1 record and 6.30 mark in his last two.
Rea has pitched well in two starts against Los Angeles, going 1-0 with a 3.27 ERA. He allowed two runs over six innings of a 5-2 win at Dodger Stadium on April 30.
Chase Utley homered off Rea in that contest, while Carl Crawford has a triple and a double in four career at-bats against him and Joc Pederson has gone 2 for 5 with a double. Adrian Gonzalez, however, is 0 for 6 with two strikeouts in the matchup.
Gonzalez had two hits and Trayce Thompson hit his seventh home run Saturday for the Dodgers, who have totaled 13 runs and batted .209 during their losing streak.