Capuano stellar vs. Astros to earn seventh win

Capuano stellar vs. Astros to earn seventh win

Capuano stellar vs. Astros to earn seventh win
LOS ANGELES -- It's not hard to explain how the Dodgers have the best record in baseball, it's just hard to believe.

Sunday's 5-1 win over the Astros was another example. Chris Capuano, signed to be the fifth starter and now deserving of All-Star consideration, ran his record to 7-1 with a two-hitter for seven innings. Sidekick Matt Treanor, Capuano's personal catcher the past six starts, homered, singled, walked and scored two runs.

Jerry Hairston Jr. -- just off the disabled list and subbing at third base for injured third baseman Juan Uribe while batting in Matt Kemp's third spot in the lineup -- was a career-high 5-for-5.

Tony Gwynn, subbing in center for the rehabbing Kemp, singled twice, drove in two runs and stole two bases. He's 12-for-25 with runners in scoring position.

"We are a resilient bunch," Gwynn said. "Guys aren't afraid of the moment and they step right in and nobody is thinking about Matt or Juan being gone."

Dee Gordon, back from a benching, singled twice and stole two bases.

"I don't think anybody expected some of the guys to do as well as they have," said Capuano, who fits in with that group, being six years and two Tommy John operations removed from his lone All-Star appearance.

But here they are, even after losing half their starting lineup to the disabled list, racing out to a 7 ½-game lead in the division, a 32-15 record, a 21-5 home mark, with the second-best team batting average and team ERA in the National League.

Although the injuries haven't let up -- indications are that Ted Lilly could miss a start Tuesday and maybe more -- neither have the Dodgers let up, not even in this game with hitters 4-5-6 (Andre Ethier, Scott Van Slyke and Jerry Sands) going 0-for-11 with six strikeouts.

"We gave ourselves a lot of chances today," manager Don Mattingly said after the Dodgers went a wasteful 3-for-18 with runners in scoring position, stranding a dozen and still winning.

The biggest reason was Capuano, who allowed a first-inning run and not another hit until the sixth inning.

"He really didn't get behind to any of us today," said Astros center fielder Justin Maxwell.

Capuano also made a run-saving defensive play on a Carlos Lee comebacker. He has a share of the league lead in wins and his ERA is down to 2.14. He struck out eight.

"The strike zone today [of plate umpire Mike Everitt] was pretty generous down and that helps me throwing a good, low fastball for strikes," he said.

Mattingly said he doesn't try to match up Capuano and Treanor, but the schedule and opposing pitchers have made it logical to do. No need messing with success.

"He has a good feel for what I want to throw," Capuano said. "And he's raking."

The home run was glove-aided, as the ball glanced off the glove of a leaping Maxwell in center field and over the fence. Still, Treanor's .290 average is more than the Dodgers expected from a backup to A.J. Ellis, whose .317 is way more than the Dodgers expected at a position that has gone from questionable to formidable.

"Guys come in and look at the lineup card and it's not like, 'Hey we're going to have to battle today,'" Treanor said. "We're just going to go out there and play good baseball. Then it's out of your hands. We are confident with whatever lineup Donnie puts out there that we have a chance to win."

Mattingly has considerably more flexibility in the lineup with Hairston, 7-for-9 since returning Friday night from the disabled list and a left hamstring strain.

"Especially the teams I've been on that have won, you have to have a contribution from everybody," said Hairston, now hitting .381. "You need your role players. You need your stars. You need everybody to contribute their role. So far, so good, doing that. But we have a long way to go."

Hairston also showed his toughness, remaining in the game after taking an elbow from hefty first baseman Lee as he came off the bag for a throw.

"I got elbowed in the jaw and he got me pretty good," said Hairston, who needed a moment to regroup. "Obviously when you are running down the line you don't expect a guy that big to elbow you in the jaw. He got me pretty good. He said his elbow his hurting from my face. I was definitely stunned. I haven't been punched that hard since eighth grade. That's why I fight people in my weight class and he's not in my weight class. [To come back with four more hits], I guess he knocked some sense into me."

Aggressive third-base coaching by Tim Wallach helped the Dodgers tie the game in the second after singles by Treanor and Gordon off Houston starter J.A. Happ. With two out, Gwynn lined a single to left field and Wallach sent Treanor as left fielder J.D. Martinez's throw wasn't close to the plate.

"I'm not exactly Dee Gordon out there, but we challenged the defense and that's another thing we've been doing," Treanor said.

The Dodgers added to the lead in the seventh on a bases-loaded walk by pinch-hitter Bobby Abreu, who appreciated the praise from Mattingly for his patient approach at the plate.

"I know it was a great at-bat, something good for the team to keep the rally going," Abreu said. "I've always been patient at the plate, since I was a kid. I've been doing that all my career."

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.