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#pounditThursday, June 13, 2024

Dave Roberts explains why he pulled Kenta Maeda early

Kenta Maeda Dodgers

Dave Roberts’ decision to pull pitcher Kenta Maeda in the fourth inning of Game 5 of the NLCS on Thursday at Dodger Stadium caught many off guard, especially since the starter was about to face the Cubs’ pitcher. But Roberts had good reasons for doing so.

After the Dodgers lost Game 5 8-4 to the Cubs, Roberts explained his thinking in lifting Maeda with two outs in the fourth and Jon Lester at the plate.

“Kenta’s fine physically. For me, I felt that at 3.2 (innings), he was around 75 pitches. I felt that he was starting to lose that fastball command, and I felt that the breaking ball wasn’t as sharp,” Roberts said after the game. “Lester put a good swing on that ball in his first at-bat, and I didn’t see Kenta getting (Dexter) Fowler. So I liked the (Josh) Fields match-up if for some reason we lost Lester.

“At that point in time, I wanted to make the move knowing that Kenta wasn’t going to get Fowler anyway. So I felt that Fields can go in there and throw strikes and beat Lester with velocity.”

Fields got Lester out to end the fourth and ended up facing two batters in the fifth before being pulled. The Dodgers ended up using seven pitchers in the game.

Even though the final score does not look good, Roberts’ decision to lift Maeda looked like it was working out fine until the wheels came off in the eighth. Reliever Pedro Baez struggled defensively as the Cubs blew the game open with a five-run inning. And even though Maeda’s final line looks fine — six strikeouts and one run over 3.2 innings — he allowed three of the first batters to reach in the first and allowed two to reach in the fourth. With the stakes so high, Roberts couldn’t afford to let the game get away from the Dodgers early on. That’s why he took the ball out of the hands of a pitcher who still has not pitched more than four innings in any of his postseason starts.

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