May 13, 2014

Kenta Maeda could continue the spectacular start to his major league career, but it might not matter if the Los Angeles Dodgers don't halt their offensive struggles against the Miami Marlins.

The right-hander looks to remain dominant while the Dodgers try to avoid being swept at home by Don Mattingly's surging Marlins for the first time Thursday night.

Since 1913, 76 pitchers have opened their careers with four straight quality starts, but Maeda (3-0, 0.36 ERA) is the only one to yield just one earned run. He'll try to become the first Dodgers pitcher since Pedro Astacio in 1992 to make it five in a row.

"You look at this sample of four games, he has obviously exceeded every expectation we've had," manager Dave Roberts said. "He's doing some special things."

Opponents are batting .189 with a .240 on-base percentage against Maeda, who has a WHIP of 0.87. He reinforced his dominance Saturday by allowing three hits and striking out eight over 6 1/3 scoreless innings of a 4-1 victory at Coors Field.

"This guy knows how to pitch, knows how to win," catcher A.J. Ellis said.

It was the 100th professional victory for the 28-year-old, who can add to that total against former Los Angeles manager Mattingly.

While the high-priced Dodgers are expected to contend for a fourth straight NL West title, it's the budget-conscious Marlins (9-11) who have dominated this series.

"We've won three, it doesn't matter at this point," Mattingly said. "We have an opportunity to do something here."

A winner of four straight, Miami has limited Los Angeles (12-10) to five runs, 15 hits and a 0-for-13 showing with runners in scoring position over three games to take its first series at Chavez Ravine since 2010.

"They're supposed to get us out and we're supposed to battle, and they're winning it right now," Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager said.

Just called up from the minors, Justin Nicolino allowed both Los Angeles hits over 7 1/3 innings of Wednesday's 2-0 victory. About all Dodgers fans had to cheer about came in the eighth when Mattingly and reliever David Phelps were ejected for arguing balls and strikes.

Now the Marlins hand the ball to ace Jose Fernandez (1-2, 4.37), who is 2-0 with a 2.84 ERA in three starts against Los Angeles but all before he underwent elbow surgery in May 2014.

After allowing a run and three hits in each of his previous two starts over a combined 11 innings, Fernandez gave up four runs and seven hits in six innings of Saturday's 7-2 loss at San Francisco.

"Jose is tough. I love Jose," Mattingly said. "He's a competitor. He battles. As that game gets going. ... He's still using some pitches early, but that's part of his process.

"He's a kid that wants to go back out there. He wanted to go back out there again."

Teammate Giancarlo Stanton is 7 for 14 with seven RBIs and four walks in four games after batting .193 and walking seven times in his first 15 contests. The Los Angeles area native is batting .438 with 12 RBIs in his last nine at Dodger Stadium.

Though no longer an everyday player, Ichiro Suzuki could find himself facing Maeda in a potentially entertaining matchup of former Japanese league stars. Suzuki is 8 for 21 with a RBI this season.

Yasiel Puig is hitting .140 with 12 strikeouts in 12 games after batting .405 and fanning six times in the first 10.

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