CINCINNATI -- The more the Dodgers bullpen pitched on Sunday, the better Kenta Maeda's five-inning start looked.
Maeda (5-3) got the win as the Dodgers held on to sweep the Reds again, 8-7, after nearly blowing a seven-run lead because the Dodgers bullpen allowed three homers. Kenley Jansen restored order, pitching a perfect ninth inning with two strikeouts for his 15th save and extending his MLB record for strikeouts to start a season without a walk to 50.
Maeda was making his first spot start since being relegated to the bullpen because of, coincidentally, short starts. He was perfect through three innings, minimized damage with the bases loaded in the fourth to allow only one run -- thanks to Yasiel Puig's four-star Statcast™ catch -- and was removed by manager Dave Roberts after five innings with a 5-1 lead.
"Kenta came out today aggressive, attacking the strike zone as we had talked about, but I wanted to be mindful of his workload, so I felt what he gave us was plenty and I trust the bullpen," said Roberts, who declined to say what role is next for Maeda.
"It was awesome, a huge play for Puig," said Maeda, who added a two-run double at the plate and said he could have pitched longer than 78 pitches.
Roberts, however, said he didn't want to push Maeda in his first start in two weeks. The 5-1 lead when Maeda left was extended by Justin Turner's three-run homer in the sixth, so how in the world did that turn into a Jansen save?
It begins with the decision to send down Josh Ravin, who pitched two innings in Hyun-Jin Ryu's five-inning start on Saturday, and replace him with Brock Stewart, whose first available flight from Colorado was delayed by weather.
Roberts acknowledged he probably would have piggybacked Stewart, a starter at Triple-A, to follow Maeda if he had arrived in time. But even with his agent driving him from the airport in nearby Kentucky to the ballpark, Stewart didn't show up in the Dodgers bullpen until the seventh inning.
"Our bullpen has been lights-out all year and they put good at-bats together," Roberts said of the Reds.
Making the late innings even more dicey, Roberts decided before the game that he wouldn't use Jansen for a four-out save. Even after Suarez's homer he left in Baez, who needed a game-saving catch from left fielder Enrique Hernandez against the wall on a Joey Votto drive that ended the eighth inning. After Suarez's homer, the bullpen phone rang and the call was to warm up Chris Hatcher, although Jansen assumed it was for him and he jumped up, only to stare at the dugout in disbelief.
"I didn't want to use Kenley for four outs. I've gone to that well a lot," said Roberts, who has done it six times this year. "I trust Petey. I think Kenley's workload has been enough."
"I appreciate [Roberts] doing a terrific job to protect me, but when it gets close I want that ball," said Jansen. "But I know how much they care. They want me to pitch for a long time."
Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.