The Dodgers finished off their three-game sweep of the Pirates Thursday night with a 3-2 win. The Dodgers now own the best record in MLB at 6-1, feasting at the expense of San Diego and Pittsburgh. But manager Don Mattingly sees these early opponents beyond just last year's record.
"Early in the year it's tough to win games because it doesn't matter what people think you're supposed to be," Mattingly said. "Last year the Diamondbacks, who were in last place the year before, they win the division. The year before that the Padres, nobody counted on them and they were in it until the last day.
"You can put things on paper all you want, but you have to go out and play. I'm happy to win these games. It doesn't matter who they're coming against. You have to win X amount of games to win the division."
Five of the Dodgers' six wins have been saved by Javy Guerra, who picked up where he left off in his rookie season with five scoreless frames. Guerra has retired 14 of 16 batters faced this season, and picked up saves in three straight days.
"The thing with Javy today it wasn't so bad because he throws  pitches and  pitches the last two days," Mattingly said. "It wasn't like he went out and had a 24 or 25-pitch inning and then another 24-25 pitch inning. Nothing is ever a breeze but he had nine-pitch and 11-pitch innings and they've been pretty simple."
Guerra threw 11 pitches Thursday night, and said he'd be ready to go Friday if needed. "The way we're playing right now, I would throw every day if I could," Guerra said. "I'm still young. It will be alright"
Chris Capuano started the game, and was improved over his last start, with seven strikeouts and no walks. Though he did falter in the middle innings and was removed with just one out in the sixth inning.
"Sometimes mentally for starters, that fifth and sixth inning in the middle of the game can be challenging, especially with the lead," Capuano said. "I'm trying to remind myself to attack the zone, but certainly in the last inning I wasn't making the same quality pitches I was earlier in the game. I want to sharpen my focus at that crucial time in the ballgame."
Mattingly like Capuano's start, though he did say ultimately he would like his pitcher to last more than five innings.
"Cap has a lot of different looks, but those guys at times that third time through, you have to throw your whole repertoire out there, it gets tougher and tougher. Cap is going to keep fighting and keep battling, and we'll just have to get a feel for Cap as we go."
Lindblom's Kick Save
In the bottom of the seventh inning, Jose Tabata greeted Josh Lindblom with a hard grounder up the middle that ricocheted off Lindblom for an infield single. After the game, Lindblom had a fairly large welt on his right calf where the ball hit. Lindblom said he received treatment after coming out, and that he would ice his calf at home to keep the swelling down.
Lindblom recovered from the leadoff hit to pitch a scoreless inning. But was the seventh inning setup role any different than the multi-inning middle relief role that defined his first two outings?
"The inning doesn't really matter. It's still just getting the ball to whomever is in that eighth. The way Kenley and Javy have been throwing is unbelievable," Lindblom said. "Whether you're coming in the fifth, sixth, or seventh, just get the ball to those guys. It's an awesome role to have, then to be able to watch those two dominate, it's a fun, fun thing."
The Dodgers look for their fourth straight win as they welcome the San Diego Padres to town. Friday night's series opener at Dodger Stadium is a rematch of Sunday's Petco Park battle between Aaron Harang and Clayton Richard.