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Dodgers demand more on mound in finale vs. Reds

CINCINNATI -- Dave Roberts wants his starting pitchers to show "conviction" on the mound. It has been a recurring theme with the Los Angeles Dodgers manager during the weekend series against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park.

"It's crucial to set the tone in the first and second innings," Roberts said, speaking in particular of right-hander Kenta Maeda, who will start the series finale against the Reds on Sunday afternoon.

Maeda made his first career relief appearance on June 9 and pitched well against the Reds, going four innings with one earned run and three hits with six strikeouts and no walks in 60 pitches. He posted his first career save in that game.

"He has four pitches he can throw for strikes at any time," Roberts said. "I know the work and the preparation he puts into the game. He tries to be too fine at times."

Maeda is 4-3 with a 5.16 ERA in 10 starts. He has 53 strikeouts with 17 walks in 52 1/3 innings. He has worked past the fifth inning in just two of those starts, averaging around 92 pitches per outing.

In nine career games, including eight starts against National League opponents, Maeda owns a 4-2 record with a 3.54 ERA and has held opponents to a .222 average.

Roberts wants all his starters to "empty the tank" with what he calls the "best bullpen in baseball" lurking behind them.

Hyun-Jin Ryu needed 105 pitches to get through five innings Saturday, but home runs from Cody Bellinger, Joc Pederson and two by Yasiel Puig bailed him out in a 10-2 Dodgers win.

The Dodgers (43-26) have won seven straight games against Cincinnati dating to last season.

The Reds (29-38) have dropped a season-high eight straight games, their longest skid since an 11-game streak in May 2016.

The Reds also have concerns about their starter on Sunday, albeit under different circumstances. Bronson Arroyo, 40, succeeded in his comeback to the major leagues after missing more than two seasons with elbow and shoulder surgeries. But doubts are beginning to creep in.

Arroyo allowed nine earned runs in five innings of a 9-3 loss Monday at San Diego, including a six-run second inning.

"It's just learning to manage his stuff when the speed is down," Reds manager Bryan Price said after Arroyo's outing. "And trying to manage a game with that type of stuff is a different animal. Thank goodness he got those final eight outs. I'm not trying to make it a great outing, it wasn't. But it could have been worse."

Arroyo is 6-5 with a 3.65 ERA in 16 career starts versus the Dodgers. He last faced them on June 15, 2014.

With their win in the series opener Friday night, the Dodgers clinched the season series over the Reds for the fourth consecutive year. Los Angeles is now 18-6 when facing the National League Central this season. The Dodgers are 31-20 all time at Great American Ball Park.

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