Chris Capuano Does it All As Dodgers Top Marlins

What’s the best way to overcome a disappointing offense? Chris Capuano decided the best way around that problem was to simply take matters into his own hands, taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning against Miami this afternoon and scoring the only run the Dodgers would need for good measure.

Capuano lost that no-hitter bid on a Jose Reyes single, but managed to work around it and struck out ten over eight scoreless in one of his most impressive outings as a Dodger. He also started off the initial Dodger rally by leading off the top of the third with a single, eventually coming around to score on a Hanley Ramirez sacrifice fly after having been moved to third by singles from Shane Victorino & Mark Ellis.

That 1-0 score held up until the eighth, when the Marlins decided to remove an effective Wade LeBlanc in favor of free agent disaster Heath Bell. Bell, once again proving the “big money deals to non-elite relievers rarely ever work out” corollary, allowed hits to Ellis, Matt Kemp, Ramirez, & Ethier before being removed in favor of Chris Hatcher, having retired just one of the five hitters he saw. Hatcher struck out Juan Rivera before allowing Luis “all I do is double” Cruz to drive in Ethier on a two-bagger to the right field gap; Matt Treanor finally grounded out to end the inning with the Dodgers up 5-0.

For Ramirez, who drove in three runs today and five during the series, the weekend marked a successful return to Miami, as he went 6-12 over the three-game set. I can’t imagine how much Marlins fans enjoyed watching that.

Capuano & Dodgers Downed by Diamondback Dingers

Over the course of the day, I’ve written four posts (two from two different airports), spent three hours on a plane, saw the site shatter previous traffic records (thanks!) and watched A.J. Burnett nearly no-hit the Cubs in my first trip to Wrigley Field. So I hope you’ll forgive me if I’m really less than motivated to spend a lot of time discussing how meekly the Dodgers went down against Arizona tonight.

That being the case, let’s make this quick: bad Chris Capuano, the one who allows dingers, showed up to allow dingers, one to Paul Goldschmidt and one to Miguel Montero. The bad Dodger offense, the one that doesn’t provide offense, showed up – in a manner of speaking – to manage just five hits against Wade Miley & David Hernandez, though one was a home run by Mark Ellis. And hey, when is it okay to point out that Andre Ethier has just two homers in more than two months? Is it now? Not yet? Okay, just let me know when. Yes, I know he was on the disabled list, but it wasn’t for that long.

Tomorrow, don’t forget, is a 12:10pm PT matinee. Stephen Fife gets his third start, and Shane Victorino might potentially make his Dodger debut. While I still think that the player moved to make room for him is either Bobby Abreu, Juan Uribe, or Tony Gwynn, it’s worth noting that Shawn Tolleson has thrown 43 pitches over the last two days, and has the all-important ability to be optioned remaining. Geez, of course it’ll be him.

Dodgers Limp Into Break, But Hang On To First Place

None of the Capuanos from this espn.com picture were any good today

I don’t know about you, but I’m more than ready for four days of a break from Dodger baseball right now. Judging by the way the Dodgers played today in dropping their third in a row to Arizona, losing 7-1 as Chris Capuano & Ronald Belisario were both hit hard, I’m guessing the team feels the same way. At least Capuano got a hit, which is more than most of the rest of the roster could say; aside from him, the Dodgers had just four hits in 27 at-bats against Trevor Bauer & Patrick Corbin, three of which came in the ninth inning. If this was to be the end of Juan Uribe‘s Dodger career – a fact I’m still not convinced of – let it be known that it ended on a sacrifice fly to right field, bringing in the only run on his first RBI in well over a month.

Still, while “non-existent offense dooms Dodgers to defeat” has been the tale of far too many games in the first three months of this season, I’m not taking this one too severely. It’s too damn hot, for one thing, but the Dodgers go into the break with a half-game lead in the NL West over San Francisco, who were crushed by Pittsburgh thanks to another poor Tim Lincecum start and two Ryan Theriot errors.

Considering our expectations at the beginning of the season – don’t forget, Frank McCourt still owned this club in April – the absolutely absurd level of injuries we’ve had to live through, and the total zeroes that four of the eight positions on offense have represented, I think every single one of us would have taken “first place at the break”. And when the season resumes on Friday, we’ll probably have Matt Kemp & Andre Ethier to look forward to, so there’s hope here.

Thanks for a fun first half, and stay tuned over the next few days as we’ll have midseason grades, All-Star game chat, and potentially a guest prospect report.

Happy Anniversary, Dee Gordon

One year ago today, Dee Gordon made his major league debut, appearing as a pinch-runner and scoring a run in Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park. Gordon’s been through a lot since then – a slow start, a disabling shoulder injury, a fantastic September, an atrocious first third of 2012, and a “mental break” that wasn’t an outright demotion only due to injuries to others – yet for the second time this series, he’s directly contributed to a crucial Dodger victory. Tonight, he came up with two outs and the bases loaded in the sixth, down 4-3 and facing incoming Phillies lefty Raul Valdes.

I’ll admit that at the time, I privately questioned whether this was the right situation for Juan Rivera, reasoning that Gordon against the lefty almost certainly wouldn’t end well. I was wrong; Gordon smacked a single to right, driving in two, and giving the Dodgers a lead they would never relinquish. Yet Gordon wasn’t done there, for in the eighth, the Phillies put a man on against Scott Elbert as Hunter Pence strode to the plate. Pence grounded sharply up the middle, potentially putting men on the corners had it gone through, but Gordon made a fantastic play not only to get to the ball but to step on the bag and throw to first, completing the 6-3 double play and ending the inning. Don’t look now, but Gordon has hits in 13 of his last 15 games, though he still hasn’t been able to nudge his OBP within striking distance of .300.

Gordon wasn’t alone, of course, not on a night where Philadelphia walked seven Dodgers and even James Loney lucked into two hits and a bases-loaded walk. (And how about cult hero Elian Herrera, who walked twice and doubled, pushing his OBP up to .390 and into hearts of Dodger fans everywhere?) The contributions were more than welcome on a night where Chris Capuano‘s taterific road tendencies shone through and the 3-4 hitters in the lineup – Bobby Abreu, Juan Rivera (for one at-bat), and Andre Ethier – combined to go 0-9. Ethier in particular has been struggling lately, going hitless in his last seventeen at-bats.

The Dodgers, improbably, have taken the first three games of the four game set in Philadelphia, home of more than a few bad memories. Can we dare to dream that Aaron Harang outlasts Cole Hamels tomorrow for the sweep? With a three-game advantage, a matinee after a night game, and a cross-country trip to Seattle ahead without a day off, expect Don Mattingly to roll out the “house money” lineup. But hey, maybe we’ll finally get to see Shawn Tolleson, right? Kenley Jansen will almost certainly be unavailable after working tonight for the third night in a row and fourth in five – and making it uncomfortably interesting in finishing it off, needing 32 pitches and obviously laboring. Actually, tomorrow might not be enough. Let’s not see him again until Dodger Stadium, okay?

Dodgers Rocked in Colorado, Losing Streak at Five

For a few days now, we’ve been talking about the Dodger offense plummeting back to earth as we sort of expected it would, having scored just eleven runs over their last five games – all losses. And with Ted Lilly‘s injury, Chad Billingsley‘s inconsistency, and the apparent pursuit of Roy Oswalt, there’s suddenly concern in some circles about the rotation depth.

But what we haven’t been talking about is the defense, which has been a surprising strength of the team, ranking as the best in baseball by certain measures. Tonight in Colorado, that defense failed the Dodgers spectacularly, making four errors as they fell 13-3 in a game which got increasingly uglier as the late innings droned on. Then again, if you take a closer look at those miscues, you start to wonder if they even should be charged to “the Dodgers”, considering how tattered this roster is right now. We saw three throwing errors in the first four innings, one of which came from backup catcher Matt Treanor (on a miscommunication with Ivan De Jesus), and one each coming from De Jesus & Jerry Hairston, oddly starting at third base & second base, respectively, rather than vice-versa.

Hairston made the fourth error of the day after a bizarre double-switch in a nightmarish sixth inning which saw the Rockies put four on the board. After Chris Capuano allowed a Todd Helton double and a Wilin Rosario homer – and he’d been relatively decent to that point, mainly getting killed by the BABIP gods taking their revenge – he walked DJ LeMahieu and got to a 2-2 count on opposing pitcher Adam Ottavino. In a move I don’t think I’ll ever understand, Don Mattingly removed Capuano for Jamey Wright in the middle of the at-bat, moving De Jesus to second, Hairston to short, and bringing in Elian Herrera (at third base) to replace Dee Gordon in the lineup.

Hairston, as you may remember, looked atrocious at shortstop in spring training, but because the immutable law of baseball is “guy who probably shouldn’t be at a position will absolutely get the first ball hit right to him”, he fielded a Dexter Fowler grounder and threw high, pulling Scott Van Slyke off the bag. (Which, it should be pointed out, was probably a ball James Loney might have had.) LeMahieu scored, Marco Scutaro then immediately drove in Fowler with a single, and the rout was on.

Of course, the poor defense is mainly just a fun sidenote, since Capuano wasn’t his usual effective self, Wright poured napalm onto the fire, Josh Lindblom allowed back-to-back homers, and the offense once again struggled to get anything going, scoring just three runs despite 14 baserunners. If there was any bright spot today, it was in some signs of offensive life from a few of the young bats. Van Slyke & Alex Castellanos each had two hits, including one for extra bases, with Castellanos throwing in a sacrifice fly for good measure; De Jesus had a run-scoring double as well.

It might not get any easier, though: the Dodgers are going to have to turn to Aaron Harang in Colorado to stop their five-game slide tomorrow.