Far be it from me to give Ned Colletti any more credit than I’m absolutely forced at gunpoint to do, but even I have to admit that in the first month, his rotation plan of “Clayton Kershaw and four guys who are not Clayton Kershaw” is off to a pretty good start. For all of the hype about Gio Gonzalez and his 20 inning scoreless streak entering the game, it was Chris Capuano who stole the show by striking out nine Nationals over 6.2 scoreless three-hit innings (though oddly, he was yanked with a 2-0 count on Jesus Flores). Through the first 22 games of the season, the Dodgers have had their starting pitcher fail to reach the sixth inning just four times, and even then it’s hardly fair to count Kershaw’s flu-shortened debut in San Diego among them.
That said, we got a slight taste of what this team looks like when Matt Kemp & Andre Ethier aren’t hitting and A.J. Ellis is on the bench, and the results aren’t pretty. The Dodgers managed just three hits (and, granted, six walks) against Gonzalez and one reliever, and might not have seen the scoreboard at all if the Washington starter hadn’t fallen apart in the sixth inning, walking Kemp, Ethier, & Juan Uribe consecutively. James Loney plated the two superstars with a flare to center, and that was all the offense the Dodgers would need to finish off the Nationals. Josh Lindblom & Kenley Jansen followed Capuano with 2.1 innings of scoreless work, with it being mildly notable that it was Jansen and not Javy Guerra called upon to close a 2-0 game in the ninth. Interestingly, Guerra began to warm after Jansen missed with his first six pitches, so clearly he wasn’t unavailable after he threw 22 pitches yesterday. I’m sure Don Mattingly will have little to say about the situation, but kudos to him nonetheless for making the choice that needed to be made today. Jansen struck out the side, though not without a little heartburn of his own as he also put two men on base via walks.
I’m still not quite sure what to make of the Nationals this year, and they’re clearly suffering at the moment due to injuries to Ryan Zimmerman, Mike Morse, Drew Storen, & Brad Lidge, among others. Nonetheless, they entered this series at 14-5, one of the most impressive teams in baseball in the early going, and despite the Stephen Strasburg/Bryce Harper hype machine they leave Los Angeles without a single victory. A sweep against a team like this is impressive no matter how you slice it; the 16th Dodger win in 22 games ties them with Texas (who is playing Tampa Bay tonight) for the most in baseball. The road may be about to get harder, however, as the Dodgers head into Colorado for three beginning Monday night. The Rockies have been merely a .500 club thus far, but the Dodgers never seem to play well in Coors, and they kick off the series with noted flyball artists Ted Lilly & Aaron Harang.
Update. Following the game, the Dodgers optioned Nathan Eovaldi back to Double-A Chattanooga, per Eric Stephen of TrueBlueLA. This will allow Todd Coffey to be activated from the DL in time for the Colorado series, and is just the first in what could be a series of interesting bullpen moves as Matt Guerrier and Ronald Belisario work their way back over the next week to ten days.