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Kenta Maeda baffles Rockies, leads Dodgers to 4-1 win

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DENVER (AP) Kenta Maeda held Colorado hitless into the sixth inning, A.J. Ellis lined a two-run homer and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Rockies 4-1 on Saturday night.

Maeda (3-0) allowed three hits – all in the sixth – no runs and struck out eight in 6 1/3 innings as the right-hander from Japan lowered his ERA to 0.36.

With a wind-up reminiscent of countryman Hideo Nomo, Maeda was cruising along until one out in the sixth when DJ LeMahieu singled for Colorado’s first hit. Nomo remains the only pitcher to throw a no-hitter at Coors Field – on Sept. 17, 1996.

Ellis hit his first homer of the season in the second to help the Dodgers end a five-game slide in Denver. Kenley Jansen threw a perfect ninth for his eighth save.

Tyler Chatwood (2-2) allowed three runs before exiting after the fourth with an elevated pitch count. He missed last season after undergoing his second Tommy John surgery.

Maeda was untouchable most of the night by keeping the Rockies off balance with a nasty breaking ball mixed in with a pinpoint fastball.

Early on, the Dodgers defense did their part to keep the no-hitter intact with left fielder Enrique Hernandez making a full-sprint, over-the-shoulder catch to rob Tony Wolters of an extra-base hit in the fifth.

An inning earlier, third baseman Howie Kendrick shifted over to shallow right field with Carlos Gonzalez at the plate. Gonzalez sent a hard liner that Kendrick easily caught.

So dominant most of the night, Maeda ran into trouble in the sixth after LeMahieu’s single. He gave up another to Trevor Story and then an infield single to Gonzalez to load the bases. But he retired Nolan Arenado and Gerardo Parra to get out of the inning.

The 28-year-old Maeda faced one batter – striking out Ryan Raburn – in the seventh before turning it over to the bullpen. The shutout was spoiled later in the inning on an RBI double from Brandon Barnes.

Maeda signed a $25 million, eight-year contract in January that could be worth $106.2 million if he stays healthy.

The 28-year-old received his first taste of Coors Field, which requires a pitcher to keep his pitches down and stay in command – all of which Maeda does, anyway.

“When he does that, he can pitch on the moon,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Dodgers: RHP Yimi Garcia (biceps soreness) was placed on the 15-day disabled list. Righty Zach Lee was recalled from Triple-A Oklahoma City. … LHP Scott Kazmir is dealing with a sore left thumb/wrist, but is still scheduled to start Wednesday against Miami. … INF Justin Turner wasn’t in the lineup after having his big toe stepped on by Rockies catcher Tony Wolters on Friday.

Rockies: C Nick Hundley (concussion) will play two rehab games in Las Vegas with Triple-A Albuquerque as he tests a new mask with more padding. He may be activated Monday, “if all goes well,” manager Walt Weiss said. … OF Charlie Blackmon (turf toe) could be sent out on a rehab assignment as soon as next week.

UP NEXT

Dodgers: LHP Alex Wood (1-2) tries to bounce back after allowing six runs – three earned – in four innings during an 8-1 loss to Atlanta last Tuesday.

Rockies: RHP Jordan Lyles (1-1) is 0-3 with a 6.85 ERA in his career against Los Angeles.

Young Blue Jays say they aren’t intimidated by top seed Rays

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) When the Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays opened the pandemic-delayed season a little over two months ago, there was little to indicate the AL East rivals might meet again to begin the playoffs.

While the Rays launched the truncated 60-game schedule with expectations of making a strong bid for their first division title in a decade, the Blue Jays generally were viewed as an immensely talented young team still years away from postseason contention.

Tampa Bay didn’t disappoint, shrugging off a slow start to go a league-best 40-20 and claim the No. 1 seed in the AL playoffs that begin Tuesday.

Lefty Blake Snell, who’ll start Game 1 of the best-of-three wild-card series against Toronto at Tropicana Field, also isn’t surprised that the eighth-seeded Blue Jays earned a spot, too.

The Rays won six of 10 games between the teams during the regular season, but were outscored 48-44 and outhomered 17-11.

And while Toronto (32-28) lacks the playoff experience Tampa Bay gained last season when the Rays beat Oakland in the AL wild-card game before falling to Houston in the divisional round, the Blue Jays are building with exciting young players such as Cavan Biggio, Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

“They’ve got a lot of young guys who can ball over there,” Snell said. “It’s going to be fun to compete and see how we do.”

Rays defensive whiz Kevin Kiermaier said Tampa Bay, in the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the second time franchise history, will not take the Blue Jays lightly.

“We know we’re playing a real good team,” Kiermaier said. “It’s not going to be easy, regardless of what a team is seeded.”

The Blue Jays, who’ll start right-hander Matt Shoemaker, aren’t conceding anything.

Bichette said he and his teammates respect how good Tampa Bay is, but are not intimidated by facing the No. 1 seed.

“I would say that we didn’t care who we played. I would say that we didn’t mind playing Tampa, that’s for sure. We’re familiar with them. We’ve played them well,” Bichette said.

“I think we’re confident in our ability against them. Our talent matches up well,” Bichette added. “We think if we play well we’ve got a good chance.”

NO FANS

The stands at Tropicana Field will be empty, leaving players to wonder what the atmosphere will be like for the playoffs.

Tampa Bay routinely rank at or near the bottom of the majors in attendance, but usually pack the stands in the domed stadium during the postseason.

“It will be different,” Bichette said. “Normally when you think of your first postseason you think 40,000, you think about not being able to think it’s so loud, stuff like that.”

The Blue Jays open the playoffs near where they hold spring training in Dunedin, Florida. It’s been a winding road for Toronto, which played its home games in Buffalo, New York, at the site of its Triple-A affiliate after the Canadian government barred the Blue Jays from hosting games at their own stadium because of coronavirus concerns.

CONFIDENT RAYS

Tampa Bay’s five-game loss to Houston in last year’s divisional round was a source of motivation during the regular season.

“It definitely lit a fire under everybody. It really showed us we belong. … We gave them a tough series,” second baseman Brandon Lowe said.

“We won the wild-card game. We belong in the postseason. I think that did a lot for us to understand that we should be in the postseason and we can go a lot farther. We know what to expect this time around. I think everyone in our clubhouse expects to be playing until the end of October,” he said.

CLOSE FRIENDS

Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash has the Rays in the playoffs for the second time. His close friend and former Rays third base and bench coach Charlie Montoyo is in his second year as manager of the Blue Jays, who last made the playoffs in 2016.

“Pretty special,” Cash said of his relationship with Montoyo.

“I really learned a lot from him being around him. The way he carried himself. His hand print is throughout this organization,” Cash added. “A pretty big impact and a positive one. … When they clinched I talked to him, we face-timed at 1:30 in the morning. I’m so happy for him.”