LOS ANGELES -- In a wild Sunday night at Dodger Stadium, it took a 35-year-old veteran who fought his way onto the NLDS roster to calm things down. Chris Capuano's three innings of relief saved the bullpen in a game that could have gotten out of hand very easily.
Sure, the 10 runs scored by the Dodgers helped, but when Capuano entered in the fourth inning the Dodgers led 6-4 and the runs were coming at a furious pace from both sides.
"It felt like you just don't know what's going to happen with that game, because Cappie comes in and he hasn't pitched in a while. If he's rough or something, that thing just turns into a mix and match, and guys are going to have to do things they haven't been asked to do," said manager Don Mattingly after the game. "Cappie was the key to settling that game down."
Capuano injured his groin on Sept. 6 and didn't pitch for three weeks until throwing a pair of scoreless innings of relief in the regular season's final weekend. So his three-inning outing on Sunday night was more than he threw in a month.
"It was a battle just to get back by the end of the regular season," Capuano said.
It was also the playoff debut for Capuano, in his 11th season. He said he was the most nervous he's ever been on a baseball field, and had to remember just to breathe when he was on the mound.
"I first got to the big leagues in 2003, and I didn't thought it would be this long to get the playoffs," Capuano said. "It's unlike anything I've ever experienced. It's a whole new level of excitement. It's just awesome."
Capuano's performance was just the second Dodgers postseason appearance of three innings or more without allowing a hit, joining Alejandro Pena in Game 4 of the NLCS. But it felt more reminiscent of Tim Leary, who pitched three scoreless innings in relief to keep Game 1 of the 1988 World Series from getting out of hand.
"I'm so happy for him. He threw the ball extremely well. He gave us exactly what we needed, nine outs in the middle of the game, to keep them where they were at," said catcher A.J. Ellis. "He had a great game plan, to walk the first guy of every inning, then work his way out of it. It was a false sense of security for them."