In the fourth inning of tonight’s game, A.J. Ellis took San Diego starter Dustin Moseley deep to left field for his first homer of the season. Though it seemed meaningless at the time – it put the Dodgers up 5-0, as Matt Kemp & Andre Ethier each had driven in two by that point – it was still probably going to be my lead story, since it was just Ellis’ third big-league homer in a career that dates back (in small dribs & drabs, of course) to 2008, and Ellis’ near-total lack of power is a crucial ingredient towards whether he can succeed in his first season as a full-time starter.
That is, of course, until the wheels completely came off for Chris Capuano. There was a story out there this winter – I don’t have the link right now, and it’s late – about how while his peripheral stats were decent enough for the Mets last year, he absolutely could not go past the fifth inning, after which his OPS against went from a mid-.700 level straight to a Pujols-on-steroids level afterwards. That came an inning earlier than usual tonight, where after breezing through four scoreless, Capuano gave up a single and three walks, leaving the bases loaded for Jamey Wright. Wright – doing Jamey Wright things, don’t you know – then proceeded to walk each of the next two on eight straight balls, forcing home two runs, before being relieved himself; Scott Elbert allowed another run on a wild pitch and yet another on an Orlando Hudson single, during which the inning mercifully came to an end when catcher Nick Hundley was thrown out attempting to score.
What was a 5-0 lead entering the fifth was 5-5 following it, and suddenly Ellis’ homer was crucially important. That score stuck through the bottom of the tenth, with Mike MacDougal, Matt Guerrier, Kenley Jansen (two innings), and Todd Coffey all combining to shut down the Padres offense. The only reliever not used tonight was Josh Lindblom, as you can see by the rapidly increasing pitch counts on the bullpen chart.
Ellis then led off the 11th with a single – one of four times he was on base tonight, along with two of his trademark walks – and was sacrificed to second by Justin Sellers. After a Juan Rivera pop-out, Dee Gordon drove in Ellis with the go-ahead run, allowing Javy Guerra to finish off San Diego for his second save of the season.
Gordon, it should be noted, reached base five times tonight, including two walks of his own and three steals. Between them, Gordon & Ellis stepped to the plate eleven times and ended up with four walks, two singles, a double, and a homer. Who says you need to import high-priced talent?
It’s the first time the Dodgers have started off 3-0 since the 1999 club did the same, though that team finished 77-85. Aaron Harang hopes to do better in his Dodger debut than Capuano did as Los Angeles attempts to sweep the Padres heading into Monday’s off day and Tuesday’s home opener.
Unrelated roster note: the Dodgers have released Carlos Monasterios, who pitched in 32 games (13 starts) in 2010 after being selected as a Rule 5 pick from the Phillies. Monasterios missed all of 2011 after undergoing Tommy John surgery and had an additional procedure on the same elbow last month.