Dodgers Cap a Sunday Afternoon with a Sweep of the Nationals
It was a nearly perfect lazy Sunday afternoon at the Ravine: 74 degrees, a slight haze to temper the glaring sun. Despite some other sort of sporting event taking place in town concurrently, 48,753 came out to watch the Dodgers sweep the Washington Nationals 2-0 in yet another pitchers' duel.
As crazy as Saturday's game was, Sunday's game was more sedate. There were no three wild pitches in an inning. No two-run lead to overcome. No walkoffs.
It was just a pitching duel between Gio Gonzalez and Chris Capuano. In fact things started off perfect for Capuano when he retired the first nine batters.
The came the fourth inning where Ian Desmond led off with a blast that was inches short of being a homer. Thankfully for Capuano it was merely a double. It took Capuano 21 pitches to get out of the inning unscathed
"It's tough when you get the first guy on like that," Capuano said. "I just tried to tell myself to just slow down and focus on one pitch at a time. That's the only way you're going to get out of it."
After giving up a leadoff single to Tyler Moore, also making his Major League debut and looking he just might make it after all, in the fifth inning, Capuano was able to settle down pitching into the seventh inning.
The Dodgers were able to scratch two runs in the sixth inning when Gonzalez uncharacteristically made 12 straight pitches outside of the strike zone to load the bases. James Loney blooped a single into very shallow left centerfield that scored Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier.
"I was trying to get a ball to drive, trying to hit something hard and hit it to the outfield to get the run home," Loney said. "I just didn't hit it that hard."
Not everything was perfect though. In fact things got down right interesting. After Capuano gave up a single to Bryce Harper with two outs in the seventh inning and a 2-0 count to catcher Jesus Flores, Mattingly immediately put in Josh Lindblom.
"Bringing him in on a two-ball count there, you feel like he's going to throw strikes and get us back in the count there," Mattingly said.
Lindblom did, getting Flores to fly out to left field to end the inning.
Another eyebrow raising moment came in the ninth inning when Mattingly sent in Kenley Jansen in favor of Javy Guerra to close the game. Prior to the game, Mattingly talked about sticking with Guerra in the closer spot.
"Early on Kenley's giving up homers and we're like, 'Oh that's a great move, you did the right thing,'," Mattingly said during his pregame media session. "And then Javy has a couple of bad days and it's like, 'Oh we've got to make a change.'"
And when Mattingly sent Jansen in the ninth inning?
"Really simple today — just the freshest arm," Mattingly said. "Javy throws like 18 last night, not even 24 hours. Kenley was fresh."
Things didn't start out like Mattingly had hoped when Jansen threw six straight balls. Immediately Guerra started warming up in the bullpen alongside Scott Elbert.
"Well he was going to walk the house, he threw six straight balls," Mattingly said.
Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt came out to have a talk with Jansen and threw three straight strikes to send off Xavier Nady.
"It's just one of those days," Jansen summed up. "I just couldn't find the zone early on. I just kept battling through it."
After striking out pinch hitter Chad Tracy, he walked Bryce Harper but ended the game with a strikeout of Flores and his second save of the season.
For Guerra in his first tough stretch in his career, he's taking it all in strike. "I knew one day it would come up," he said. "Everything you have to get better."
When I told Guerra good luck trying to do that at Coors Field, he laughed.
And that's where the Dodgers take their National League best 16-6 record, the team's best through 22 games since 1981.