Scathing letter accompanies MLB counterproposal as impasse with players continues

Negotiations between MLB and the players’ union to start the 2020 season have heated up — but not in a good way.

Along with their counterproposal sent to the union Friday, MLB’s deputy commissioner and chief legal officer Dan Halem included a biting letter addressed to the union’s lead negotiator, Bruce Meyer. The letter (a copy of which was obtained by the Orange County Register) makes clear the ownership’s position regarding the March agreement between the two sides and shows disdain for the players’ stance — that they were guaranteed full pro-rated salaries for any games played should baseball resume this year.

The letter’s tone makes it seem more likely that any baseball played this season will only come after MLB commissioner Rob Manfred mandates an abbreviated regular season (around 50 games) and an expanded postseason (played on time in October) that would bring the TV revenue MLB craves.

“While we recognize that this essentially has been a negotiation with ourselves because the (Players) Association has offered little beyond what we already have the right to do under the March Agreement, we will make another attempt to reach an agreement that is a win-win for both sides,” Halem said in the letter before outlining the latest proposal — a 72-game regular season beginning around July 14 and ending September 27 with an expanded postseason.

That proposal has been characterized as dead on arrival by many players posting on social media.

“It expired as soon as they hit send,” Pirates pitcher Trevor Williams posted on Twitter, referring to MLB’s demand for a response this weekend.

In obvious reference to the counterproposal, Phillies outfielder Andrew McCutchen simply posted, “lol.” When asked to be more specific, he responded, “Laugh Out Loud.”

Players have made it clear they believe they are the ones negotiating “with ourselves.” Each of ownership’s three proposals have allotted roughly the same amount of money to salaries — 70 to 80 percent of pro-rated salary tied to only slightly increased numbers of games to be played.

The players’ union has remained steadfast in its interpretation of the March agreement — that it guarantees any pay for 2020 will be fully pro-rated based on the number of games to be played. Halem again asserted MLB’s belief that the agreement (which included a $170 million non-refundable salary advance to the players) gave it the right to negotiate player compensation based on economic realities — such as the loss of revenue from games staged without fans in attendance.

During negotiations in March, Halem said in the letter, ownership made it “crystal clear” that playing without fans in attendance “was not economically feasible.”

“We provided you with financial information showing the amount of revenue from gate/in-park (approximately 50% of local revenue),” Halem said Friday. “The Commissionerhimself said during the negotiations, according to our bargaining notes, ‘We’re not playing empty, it just doesn’t work for us.’ The Association acknowledged as much, which resulted in Section I of the March Agreement, providing the Office of the Commissioner with the unilateral right to resume the season only when (among otherconditions) there were no restrictions on regular fan access in all 30 Major League ballparks.

“And the Association, for giving up essentially nothing because players had no right under their contracts to be paid during the national emergency, received hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of benefits, including a full year of service for a shortenedseason … a full year of service if there was no season, and salary advances totaling $170 million (which were non-refundable if there was no season).”

Halem dismisses player suggestions that MLB has an “obligation to play as many games as possible.” That is “flatly contradicted” by the March agreement, he said in the letter, which places “no obligation” on teams “to play any games, let alone any particular number of games.”

“We negotiated that provision precisely to protect the Clubs from being leveraged into the economically infeasible alternative of playing in empty stadiums without a corresponding reduction in salaries,” Halem said.

According to Halem’s letter, “everyone involved in the (March) negotiations understood that if we could not resume play with regular fan access, the parties would have a subsequent negotiation over reductions to player compensation to account for the loss of billions of dollars of gate/in-park revenue.”

It is clear the two sides’ different interpretations of the March agreement “has been a stumbling block to negotiating a resolution” — something which has been apparent for weeks now. But Halem adds a further swipe at the union’s stance.

“You suggest in your letter that the Association’s 89-game proposal at full daily salaries ‘is made in the interests of settlement,’” he wrote. “However, the parties are not engaged in settlement discussions, and it is unclear what exactly you are trying to ‘settle.’”

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Alexander: Dustin May’s education continues in Dodgers’ loss

  • Dodgers starting pitcher Dustin May throws to the plate during the first inning of Monday’s game against the Padres in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

  • Dodgers starting pitcher Dustin May relaxes between innings during a game against the Blue Jays last week at Dodger Stadium. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

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  • Dodgers starting pitcher Dustin May looks toward home plate before throwing a pitch during the first inning of Monday’s game against the Padres in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

  • Dodgers starting pitcher Dustin May prepares to throw to the plate during the first inning of Monday’s game against the Padres in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

  • Dodgers starting pitcher Dustin May throws to the plate during the first inning of Monday’s game against the Padres in San Diego. The team hasn’t decided yet if May would make a greater contribution as a starter or as a reliever the rest of the season, but his talent and poise suggest he could be on their postseason roster in some capacity. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • Dodgers starting pitcher Dustin May bobbles a ground ball before throwing out the Padres’ Josh Naylor at first base during the fourth inning of Monday’s game in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

  • Dodgers starting pitcher Dustin May bobbles a ground ball before throwing out the Padres’ Josh Naylor at first base during the fourth inning of Monday’s game in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

  • Dodgers starting pitcher Dustin May sits in the dugout between innings of a game against the Cardinals earlier this month at Dodger Stadium. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)

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SAN DIEGO — Dustin May will get at least one more start for the Dodgers, as Dave Roberts continues to ponder what to do with him down the stretch.

As another in a series of auditions, May’s start Monday night in a 4-3 loss to the Padres suggested he might deserve more. (Maybe even an apology from A.J. Pollock, but we’ll get to that.)

Right now, the string-bean right-hander with the curly ginger hair is the Dodger pitching staff’s X-factor. Roberts hasn’t yet decided if he would make a greater contribution as a starter or as a reliever. But May’s stuff and his poise suggest that, at just under 22 years old and with five major league games under his belt, there could very well be a place for him in the postseason.

If there were justice, he could have pitched six innings Monday night and left with a 5-1 or 6-1 lead. But his teammates have again fallen into a funk with runners in scoring position, leaving the bases loaded twice in the early innings and going 1 for 10 in RISP situations. And Pollock’s inexplicable throw from center field into the visitors’ dugout scored the tying run and moved the winning run to third, and what had been a 3-1 lead turned into a loss that dropped May’s record to 1-3 as a big leaguer.

Naturally, May blamed himself for not backing up third base, even though it was an ill-advised throw and third baseman Justin Turner probably shouldn’t have let it slip through him.

“I gotta be behind third base to back that ball up,” May said. “There’s no excuse. I gotta be there.”

It is what the smart rookie does, take responsibility.

He is not the finished product yet, to be certain. But in his five major league outings he has demonstrated growth and he has shown poise and maturity.

“For a 21-year-old, (his poise is) off the charts; it really is,” Roberts said. “And he’s a tremendous competitor. He expects a lot from himself, and today showed it. I know he was frustrated by the result … but overall he threw 81 pitches, and I think that a large majority of those pitches were quality pitches.”

He got squeezed occasionally by plate umpire Rob Drake’s Incredible Floating Strike Zone, but he certainly wasn’t alone. Both sides had plenty to complain about, and in fact, Turner had some choice words as Drake left the field after ringing him up to end the game.

“I thought the pitch execution was pretty good,” May said. “I left a curveball up to Austin (Allen, pinch hitter) in the sixth inning and he hit it pretty hard, but other than that I thought I threw the ball pretty decent.”

Allen’s double to right-center started the Padres’ three-run rally in the sixth, though one of those runs was earned. He probably had an advantage, having seen May in the minors.

“I went up there with a little bit of confidence just from facing Dustin through the low levels of the minors and even in Double-A a little bit,” Allen said. “I haven’t faced him this year, but I’ve got a pretty good feel in like where his release point is and all that stuff.

“I’ve faced him so many times throughout the minors and he’s got such good stuff, don’t get me wrong. But after seeing guys again and again and again, I’m going to take my chances, no matter how good they are, because I know how their stuff is moving, and all the little things that go into it.”

That sort of turns the whole “third time through the order” concept on its head. The guy who hit him hardest in that inning hadn’t seen him at all Monday night and was going on what he’d seen in Double-A in 2018.

We already know this about May: He will work fast, he will keep the ball down, and he will induce soft contact. He is not yet getting hitters to swing and miss; in his four previous outings hitters had swung and missed on 9.7 percent of his pitches, according to Fangraphs; the rest of the Dodgers rotation is around 11 to 13 percent.

Monday night he had eight swings and misses in 81 pitches: four on the two-seam fastball, two on the cutter, one each on the curve and slider. The two-seam was topping out at 97 mph early and was around 95 in the later innings.

Roberts said before the game he feels the swings and misses will come as “a byproduct of execution and sequencing. When he can locate the fastball, get ahead and sequence appropriately, the stuff is there to get the swing and miss.”

In what areas does May feel he’s improved since he was called up and made his first start against the Padres on Aug. 2 in L.A.?

“I feel like my misses are closer,” he said. “I feel like I’m more around the zone. The execution of pitches is, I feel, getting better.”

The Dodgers will utilize a six-man rotation for the next week, at least, for rest purposes, so May’s next start would be Sunday in Arizona. After that? Things are fluid.

“I just gotta be ready for anything,” May said. “I have to be compatible with what’s going on. I’m excited to be here, and I’m really excited to do whatever they need me to do. I’m ready for it.”

Left unsaid: All of this is expected to reach a crescendo in October, which has become the only month that truly matters for the Dodgers and their fan base.

Will the kid be ready? We’ll be searching for clues over the next five weeks.

jalexander@scng.com

@Jim_Alexander on Twitter

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Alexander: Relief pitchers are guaranteed to frustrate

SAN DIEGO — Part of the problem is that we expect our relief pitchers to be perfect. And, as we were once again reminded Sunday afternoon, they aren’t.

“These guys aren’t robots,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said earlier in the week.

When he spoke those words he was talking about Pedro Baez. But he could have been talking about Kenley Jansen, who gave up a walkoff grand slam to Hunter Renfroe that gave the Padres an 8-5 victory Sunday afternoon and prevented a Dodgers sweep at Petco Park.

Jansen has saved 280 games in his career, 12 in 14 save opportunities this year. The times he doesn’t, such as Sunday? Those are the times that fans grumble and squirm and, in some extreme cases, wonder if there is a better option out there. Believe me, people were tweeting that sentiment around 4:10 Sunday afternoon, after Renfroe hammered a cutter into the left field seats.

Those may be the same people who will see Jansen quoted as saying “who cares” and wonder if his attitude is where it should be. If so, they’re the ones misinterpreting things, not the pitcher.

“You gotta have that ‘who cares’ mentality” as a coping mechanism, Jansen said Sunday. “It happens. It hurts. We wanted that win today. But they’re gonna be there (in Dodger Stadium) next week. That’s who I am. I just get that payback time when I face them again.

“You gotta let it go, man. You gotta let it go to survive in this league. You can’t let stuff like that happen and worry about it, because it’s going to cost you the next game.”

Relief pitching, especially in high-leverage situations, is guaranteed to frustrate those who don’t have to do it. Fans are already prepared to give up on Joe Kelly, who was signed for three years to help get the Dodgers to the ninth inning but has often been unable to build that bridge.  They’re just now warming to Baez, but the memories of his early struggles are never too far from the public consciousness.

With Jansen, the concerns – from the outside – are about his velocity, or his location, or the home run ball to which he has become susceptible in recent seasons. He has surrendered high profile homers in each of the last two World Series. He gave up 13 last season in 69 games, and now has given up four in 17 outings in 2019.

His is a high-wire act, only way more public. And those who discount the importance of the save usually are those who have never had to get those 25th, 26th and 27th outs with little margin for error.

Ask Padres fans. Their closer, Kirby Yates, came into this series with 14 saves in 16 appearances and an 0.56 ERA, but he suffered losses in the ninth inning Friday and Saturday nights. Eventually, everybody gripes about their respective relief pitchers.

Jansen had a one-run lead going into the ninth inning Sunday, achieved on Chris Taylor’s two-run home run in the eighth to complete a comeback from what was originally a 4-0 deficit. Starter Kenta Maeda and relievers Ross Stripling and Baez had retired 14 San Diego hitters in a row, with seven strikeouts in a row at one point, to get the ball to Jansen.

The ninth started ominously, with Eric Hosmer stroking a high and outside cutter to the opposite field for a single, and Manny Margot and Wil Myers following with bunt hits to load the bases. Margot was sacrificing, and third baseman Justin Turner let his bunt roll but it stayed fair. Myers bunted to the left of the mound, and in the confusion over who was covering he beat it out.

Yet Jansen almost got to the end of the high wire, getting Greg Garcia on a called third strike – the ninth pitch of the at-bat – and retiring catcher Francisco Mejia on a popup to first.

“We did,” said Roberts, when asked at that point if he felt confident Jansen was going to get out of it. “And when he got to some stress there were some 93s there (velocity), and I thought the ball had life. So once he got Garcia, and then Mejia, I really liked our chances.

” … I think right now he just hasn’t been consistent with his execution. Even the Hosmer ball, he was trying to go up and in and (the ball) leaked back over for some hard contact. But when he gets in a spot to save and it gets stressful, he finds a way to make pitches.”

Usually.

The first pitch to Renfroe was mid-strike zone and a wee bit in, and the Padres slugger took it for strike one.

“The second pitch, I tried to go up … tried to climb the ladder,” Jansen said. “But the ball stayed a little down, and he put a good swing on it. Sometimes that’s gonna happen. I can’t beat myself (up) about this.

“How many times do you throw a good pitch up in the zone and guys swing through it? … I got beat by my best pitch, the pitch I want to throw there in that situation, up in the zone. I’ve just got to let it go.”

There is also this about these high-wire artists: The best ones believe in accountability. Jansen, as is the case with most of his fellow closers, does not duck questions after a bad outing.

No, he’s not perfect. But he sets a good example.

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Whicker: Dodgers look like they’ve been there before

SAN DIEGO — “I didn’t see any panic,” Dave Roberts said.

Not even when he saw Cody Bellinger crouched near first base, after he had dived unsuccessfully.

Not even when Roberts learned that Bellinger’s right shoulder had somehow come loose from the rest of him, and then re-entered wherever it was supposed to be.

“We did some strength testing with him, he took a few swings in the cage,” Roberts said. “I think he’ll be fine. But his shoulder popped out. That’s happened with him before.”

The Dodgers’ manager seemed calmer than the situation might dictate. But over the past three years, he’s seen almost everything happen to them before.

This opener of a three-game series with the reborn Padres might have seemed a big deal to the locals, although a majority of the sellout crowd in Petco Park was wearing blue. It was another day for the Dodgers, who fell behind 3-0 and took out the brick and mortar and built a 4-3 win, for a 21-13 record.

Center fielder A.J. Pollock is out for who knows how long with yet another elbow problem, but the Dodgers push through such setbacks because, a year ago, they were basically missing their rotation and third baseman Justin Turner, too. Amid cries to dissolve the molecular structure of the franchise, they got it together and won another NL West Division title in the 163rd game, then got to their second consecutive World Series.

This year’s travails will be unique to this year. Friday night was devoted to turning around some of the stragglers, dispelling worry among the faithful.

Clayton Kershaw gave Manny Machado a 3-and-2 slider that was embossed like an invitation. Machado whacked it 437 feet for a 2-0 San Diego lead in the first inning.

Left fielder Hunter Renfroe was dashing this way and that to rob Dodger bids for extra bases. Left-hander Eric Lauer, the 23-year-old in a rotation that has no one over 27, gave up no hits for the first four innings, by which time it was 3-0, thanks to Ian Kinsler’s home run off Kershaw.

Then Kershaw shut San Diego down through the sixth inning and posted his fourth quality start in four starts.

And the first Dodgers hit was a home run by Chris Taylor, who is now hitting .173.

Turner’s 11-pitch at-bat ended with a walk and helped create a bases-loaded, no-out situation in the sixth. The Dodgers got only one run, and 6-foot-9 lefty Brad Wieck got the final two outs.

But in the seventh, Austin Barnes took Wieck deep to tie it. Barnes, now getting the majority of catching duty, is hitting .218 with 11 RBIs in 27 games.

The final defiance of the odds came against the Padres’ Kirby Yates, who has 14 saves and had given up one earned run. Padres manager Andy Green threw the closer into a tie game in the Dodgers’ ninth, and Barnes doubled and scored on a Max Muncy base hit that first baseman Eric Hosmer couldn’t stop.

Kershaw now has a 2.87 ERA with 27 strikeouts in 26 innings. Outs that are achieved with 90 mph pitches still count the same as those achieved with 96.

“When you’re not feeling your best and still keep us in it and go six strong innings, that’s a pretty good effort,” Barnes said. “No matter what, his ability to battle and make pitches is next-level. As the game went on, he got stronger and stronger.”

The Dodgers’ habitual winning doesn’t make it easier for Barnes and Taylor and anyone else to hit when they’re struggling, but it does buy time.

“It’s a grind, it’s like anything else,” Barnes said. “It’s up and down. Tonight I just got a couple of balls in the zone. I felt pretty good at the end of spring training, hit a little bit of a skid. Now I’m feeling good again. This was a good win, a hard-fought win.”

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Dodgers get another strong start from Kenta Maeda in win over Padres

  • SAN DIEGO, CA – JULY 11: Matt Kemp #27 of the Los Angeles Dodgers is congratulated after scoring during the third inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres at PETCO Park on July 11, 2018 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Kenta Maeda, of Japan, works against a San Diego Padres batter during the first inning of a baseball game Wednesday, July 11, 2018, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

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  • SAN DIEGO, CA – JULY 11: Joey Lucchesi #37 of the San Diego Padres pitches during the first inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at PETCO Park on July 11, 2018 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Kenta Maeda throws to a San Diego Padres batter during the first inning of a baseball game Wednesday, July 11, 2018, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Kenta Maeda, of Japan, works against a San Diego Padres batter during the first inning of a baseball game Wednesday, July 11, 2018, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

  • SAN DIEGO, CA – JULY 11: Matt Kemp #27 of the Los Angeles Dodgers hits an RBI single during the third inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres at PETCO Park on July 11, 2018 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers’ Matt Kemp reaches third from first on a single by Max Muncy as San Diego Padres third baseman Christian Villanueva waits for the throw during the third inning of a baseball game Wednesday, July 11, 2018, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

  • San Diego Padres starting pitcher Joey Lucchesi works against a Los Angeles Dodgers batter during the first inning of a baseball game Wednesday, July 11, 2018, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

  • SAN DIEGO, CA – JULY 11: Max Muncy #13 of the Los Angeles Dodgers hits a single during the second inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres at PETCO Park on July 11, 2018 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)

  • San Diego Padres shortstop Freddy Galvis, right, can’t hold on to the ball as Los Angeles Dodgers’ Max Muncy (13) arrives safely to second from first on an RBI single by Logan Forsythe during the third inning of a baseball game Wednesday, July 11, 2018, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Kenta Maeda, of Japan, works against a San Diego Padres batter during the first inning of a baseball game Wednesday, July 11, 2018, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

  • SAN DIEGO, CA – JULY 11: Hunter Renfroe #10 of the San Diego Padres walks back to the dugout after striking out during the fiourth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at PETCO Park on July 11, 2018 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Kenta Maeda works against a San Diego Padres batter during the fourth inning of a baseball game Wednesday, July 11, 2018, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

  • SAN DIEGO, CA – JULY 11: Chris Taylor #3 of the Los Angeles Dodgers throws over Austin Hedges #18 of the San Diego Padres as he turns a double play during the fifth inning of a baseball game at PETCO Park on July 11, 2018 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)

  • San Diego Padres third baseman Christian Villanueva drops the ball as the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Chris Taylor reaches first on the fielding error during the fourth inning of a baseball game Wednesday, July 11, 2018, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers’ Kenta Maeda, of Japan, reacts after a swinging strike while batting during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres Wednesday, July 11, 2018, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

  • SAN DIEGO, CA – JULY 11: Kenta Maeda #18 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches during the first inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres at PETCO Park on July 11, 2018 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)

  • SAN DIEGO, CA – JULY 11: Fans cheer as Kenta Maeda #18 of the Los Angeles Dodgers leaves the game in the sixth inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres at PETCO Park on July 11, 2018 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)

  • SAN DIEGO, CA – JULY 11: Chase Utley #26 of the Los Angeles Dodgers runs as he scores during the eighth inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres at PETCO Park on July 11, 2018 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)

  • SAN DIEGO, CA – JULY 11: Chase Utley #26 of the Los Angeles Dodgers is congratulated by Enrique Hernandez #14 after scoring during the eighth inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres at PETCO Park on July 11, 2018 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)

  • SAN DIEGO, CA – JULY 11: Kenley Jansen #74 of the Los Angeles Dodgers is congratulated by Yasmani Grandal #9 after beating the San Diego Padres 4-2 in a baseball game at PETCO Park on July 11, 2018 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)

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SAN DIEGO — Last week, Kenta Maeda pitched on the same day his son was born and held the Angels in check despite his lack of sleep. The next day, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts joked that he ordered Maeda to get the same amount of sleep before his next start.

Hey – Doc’s orders.

Maeda put up almost the exact same line, holding the San Diego Padres to one run on four hits in 5-2/3 innings as the Dodgers won 4-2 Wednesday night.

“Three full days of sleep,” Maeda joked through his interpreter when asked how he spent his time on the paternity list. “(If the baby was crying), I just didn’t realize it.”

Given the way he has pitched since mid-May, Maeda can sleep contentedly. In nine starts since mid-May (with a brief DL detour due to a hip injury), Maeda has a 1.97 ERA and 1.03 WHIP. He has allowed more than two earned runs in a start just once in that stretch while holding hitters to a .179 batting average with 61 strikeouts in 50-1/3 innings including nine in each of his past four starts.

It is the best stretch of his three years with the Dodgers.

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“I think as I recall against left and right this is as consistent as he’s been,” Roberts said. “He’s always been a righty killer and found ways to get lefties out. But right now, the splits are a lot more even than we’ve seen him.”

As Maeda’s family has grown, so has his repertoire. A year ago, he incorporated a cut fastball into his pitch mix. This spring, he began tinkering with the grip on his changeup. The tinkering continued into the season but he has settled now on a split-fingered grip that gives hitters already wary of his slider something else to contend with.

Over the past two months, his use of the changeup and his strikeout rate have both trended upward.

“It’s been a game-changer for Kenta,” Roberts said. “Not only against lefties but righties too. It just keeps guys more honest with the change now with the slider. Everything just plays up off of that. He can throw that pitch, present it as a strike and the bottom falls out. It’s been a huge weapon.”

Catcher Austin Barnes calls Maeda’s ability to expand his repertoire “impressive.”

“If something’s not working now, he has other weapons he can go to,” Barnes said. “When he first got here, he was basically a fastball-slider guy.”

Against the Padres, Maeda gave up hits to the first two batters, including an RBI double to Carlos Asuaje. But he struck out eight of the next 13 and allowed just one more baserunner past first (on a two-out double by Austin Hedges in the second inning) before Roberts pulled him in the sixth inning.

By then, the Dodgers were nursing a 3-1 lead the Padres had helped them build.

In the third inning, Kiké Hernandez doubled with one out and scored on a two-out RBI single by Matt Kemp.

Kemp went to third on a Max Muncy single and scored when Padres second baseman Carlos Asuaje smothered Logan Forsythe’s ground ball up the middle but couldn’t flip to second in time for a force out.

After a wild pitch moved both runners up, shortstop Freddy Galvis handled Cody Bellinger’s hard ground ball but threw in the dirt to first base. Umpire Jordan Baker was calling Bellinger out to end the inning when Padres first baseman Eric Hosmer lost the handle, allowing Bellinger to be safe and the run to score.

The Padres tightened things in the seventh when Christian Villanueva hit a two-out solo home run off Dodgers reliever Daniel Hudson. But it didn’t last. The Dodgers got the run back in the eighth on Chase Utley’s two-out pinch-hit double and Chris Taylor’s RBI single.

Dylan Floro and Kenley Jansen closed it out from there as the Dodgers moved within a half-game of first place again.

King Kenta. #マエケン pic.twitter.com/pKLgvk7gaV

— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) July 12, 2018

Chris Taylor spoke post-game with @alannarizzo about Kenta Maeda’s dominant outing and the #Dodgers offense in tonight’s win over the Padres. pic.twitter.com/HufTvqiT8W

— SportsNet LA (@SportsNetLA) July 12, 2018

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