Dodgers’ Kenta Maeda struggles against Diamondbacks after long layoff

LOS ANGELES — As Kenta Maeda threw his final warm-up pitches, the public-address system at Dodger Stadium blasted “Mugenmirai,” the latest release from the Japanese girl band Perfume. Mugenmirai translates to “infinite future,” a concept closer to the hearts of poets and teeny boppers than pitchers headed for the showers in the third inning down four runs.

So it was for Maeda on Friday. The Arizona Diamondbacks greeted him with one run in the first inning and four in the third. Maeda was removed after 2-2/3 innings, matching his shortest start in three major league seasons.

The Dodgers mounted a few late rallies, but ultimately lost 8-7 before an announced crowd of 43,791.

Arizona (10-3) is 5-1/2 games ahead of the Dodgers (4-8) in the National League West.

Maeda had pitched merely one inning out of the bullpen in 12 days since his last start. The rust showed. He walked the first batter he faced, David Peralta, and allowed a pair of singles – the last by Daniel Descalso – to put the Dodgers in a 1-0 hole four batters into the game.

After a 1-2-3 second inning, the Diamondbacks piled on in the third.

Pitcher Zack Greinke drew a walk to begin the inning. Peralta grounded a single into right field. Ketel Marte grounded a ball back to the pitcher’s mound, but Maeda thwarted a potential double play by throwing the ball wide of second base. After a video review confirmed that Dodger shortstop Corey Seager’s foot left the bag, Maeda was charged with a throwing error. The bases were full with nobody out.

All three runners ultimately scored. Greinke scampered home on a wild pitch to Descalso. Peralta advanced to third base, then scored on a Maeda pitch that eluded the glove of Yasmani Grandal. Descalso ended his plate appearance with a sacrifice fly and Arizona led 4-1.

Back-to-back doubles by Chris Owings and Jarrod Dyson gave the Diamondbacks a 5-1 lead and ended Maeda’s day. The right-hander had not allowed an earned run in six innings to begin the season. He allowed five runs Friday, but only two were earned by virtue of his own error.

Greinke entered the game with a 2-5 record against his former team, including the postseason, since he spurned the Dodgers as a free agent in 2015.

Friday he was masterful.

A solo home run by Chris Taylor to begin the first inning – his second leadoff homer this week –  was the Dodgers’ only run until Cody Bellinger homered against Greinke in the sixth inning.

In his third start of the season, Greinke allowed five hits. The Dodgers failed to string together any kind of a threat during his 6-1/3 innings. The right-hander walked one batter and struck out seven.

When a scheduled day off in San Francisco was followed by a day of steady rain, the Dodgers were presented with rare back-to-back days off on the road. Manager Dave Roberts chose to skip Maeda’s turn in the rotation. He acknowledged Friday that the fluctuating schedule was less than ideal.

The Dodgers’ bullpen seemed no worse for the wear. Ross Stripling extinguished the burning embers left by Maeda, then hung around to pitch a scoreless fourth inning. Pedro Baez pitched a scoreless fifth, followed by Josh Fields, Tony Cingrani and J.T. Chargois. Twelve of the 16 outs they recorded came by virtue of strikeouts.

Cingrani allowed a two-run home run by Descalso in the top of the seventh. In the bottom of the seventh, the Dodgers rallied for three runs against the Arizona bullpen. All three scored with two outs.

Taylor drove in Yasiel Puig with an infield single against T.J. McFarland. Seager drove in Logan Forsythe with a single. Archie Bradley relieved McFarland, and allowed an RBI single to Matt Kemp.

Arizona tacked on another run in the eighth inning when Chargois allowed a solo home run to Nick Ahmed. Again, the Dodgers answered.

Bradley allowed a single to Yasmani Grandal and walked Puig. Grandal advanced to third on a sacrifice fly, and Joc Pederson walked to load the bases. Pinch hitter Chase Utley stroked a ground ball up the middle of the diamond, a potential double-play groundout – until the ball met the canvas of second base and caromed out of the reach of the Arizona infielders. Grandal and Puig scored, cutting the Dodgers’ deficit to 8-7.

Bradley got out of the jam by retiring Taylor on a double-play groundout, ending the eighth inning.

Kenley Jansen pitched a scoreless ninth inning for the Dodgers. Diamondbacks closer Brad Boxberger allowed only a single to Bellinger in the bottom of the ninth before closing out his fifth save of the season.

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