Entering Sunday's game in Houston, there was growing concern that the back end of the Dodgers bullpen could get overworked. After all, Kenley Jansen led the majors with 10 appearances in 15 games, and Javy Guerra was right behind him with nine. It was a byproduct of the Dodgers playing in so many close games and really, winning almost too often, if there is such a thing.
There are two natural remedies to resting the back end of the bullpen. The Dodgers utilized one option on Sunday by losing, and in blowout fashion 12-0 to the Astros. But Monday night at Dodger Stadium, the Dodgers used the option that is much more fun and rewarding.
They handily beat the Braves 7-2, winning a game without a save situation for the just the third time all season, and the first time since April 14. The man at the front and center of the offense for the Dodgers Monday night was none other than Juan Uribe, who had his first four-hit game since 2007.
"It is nice because this guy is a good teammate and the guys love him," manager Don Mattingly said of Uribe after the game. "He always has a smile on his face. He has continued to play good defense for us. The fact that he was able to have a night here at home, it was nice to be able to do that in front of our fans."
Uribe came into the game hitting .211/.231/.237, numbers even worst than his putrid 2011 campaign. But it is still early, and even though Uribe went 4-for-4 he improved to .286/.302/.310, nothing exactly to write home about. Uribe's swings weren't necessarily pretty (are they ever?), especially when he threw the bat at the ball for a single on a hit and run play in the fourth inning. But he'll take the results .
"It doesn't matter to guys. It's like if you get a win and it's ugly," Mattingly said. "If you get four hits, it's four hits. It's a boost to your confidence and can go a long way."
Uribe wasn't alone, either. James Loney and A.J. Ellis each had two hits themselves, providing a formidable 6-7-8 at the bottom of the order.
"James looks a lot better," Mattingly said. "I felt like he was swinging the bat good early, but just wasn't getting hits. He was squaring up balls and has been consistent. I feel like he's on his way."
It was a batting order that produced enough to batter Jair Jurrjens for five runs and get the Braves' pitcher optioned to Triple A after the game.
"Matt and Andre can't get every ribbie and score every run," Mattingly said. The fact that we were able to put some runs on the board, with Juan getting some big hits there, and A.J. swinging the bat well. We were just able to do what we needed to do to get a win."
Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier were no slouches themselves, as each reached base three times Monday night. They did provide some adventure on the basepaths, however, in the form of a 7-6-2-3 double play set in motion by Kemp's over-aggression, trying to score from first on a single.
"We talked about it afterward, and Matt knows it. It's just the wrong time. We're first and third, nobody out. He knows," Mattingly said. "There's a time for that, when guys lackadaisically flip the ball in and the guy doesn't think he's running. If he hold that ball and freezes for a split second, Matt's going to be safe."
Mattingly also talked about Dee Gordon getting caught stealing at second base, in a first-and-third, one-out situation with Kemp on deck, another situation of the wrong time.
"I don't mind him running first and third there, especially if the guy is kind of long. But in that situation for us, he's almost got to be 100% to steal that bag," Mattingly said.
Mattingly said Gordon has been mixing in some feet-first slides instead of his traditional headfirst slide to keep fielders off balance. The coaching staff worked with Gordon over the winter on the headfirst slide as a way to both protect him from injury and to avoid unnecessary outs. Gordon was caught stealing Thursday in Milwaukee when Rickie Weeks put his knee down do block Gordon's hand from reaching second base.
"There have been some guys blocking the bag on him, putting a foot down," Mattingly said. "You come spikes first those guys aren't going to block the bag."
Capuano Goes Deep
As for Chris Capuano, the Dodgers' starter walked four but got better as the game went along, retiring eight of his last nine while lasting seven innings.
"I just had an aggressive mindset as opposed to pitching away from contact," Capuano said. "It's about getting ahead of hitters, pounding the strike zone aggressively, and not letting yourself fall into a tentative defensive mindset."
"We talked about keep staying on the attack and keep going after these guys. They've got a dangerous club. They'll hurt you," Mattingly said. "You have to make sure you're making pitches and be aggressive in the right spots."
starts for the Dodgers on Tuesday night, making his fourth start of the season, and second at home. Southpaw gets the start for Atlanta.