After pulling off an impressive three-game sweep of the NL East-leading Washington Nationals on Sunday, I wonder how many baseball “experts” are still talking about the Los Angeles Dodgers and their weak schedule.
When the Dodgers started the 2012 MLB season at a blistering pace, virtually every column from baseball writers on sites like ESPN, Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated and the Sporting News said something to the effect of: “Yes, the Dodgers have the best record in baseball, but look at the teams they’ve played. Their victories have come against the likes of the San Diego Padres and the Pittsburgh Pirates.
“Let’s reserve judgment on just how good the Dodgers are until they actually play somebody.”
Well, the Dodgers have played somebody … and they swept them! These are not your father’s Nationals, people! The 2012 version of the Nationals features the best pitching staff in all of baseball so far this season. And, before you think Washington is strictly a pitching team, think again.
With a lineup features Ryan Zimmerman, Adam LaRoche, Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper, the Nationals have some offensive weapons. Washington is leading all of MLB with a team ERA of 2.33 and feature seven pitchers with ERAs of 2.00 or lower.
However, the Dodgers showed the Nationals this weekend that they aren’t the only team with solid pitching.
In the three games against the Nationals, all the Dodgers did was to hold Washington to five runs and 15 hits over 28 innings. The sweep was capped off with a beautiful effort by the Dodger starter who has put together the best season thus far – and it’s not Clayton Kershaw or Chad Billingsley!
Lefty Chris Capuano, who didn’t exactly have fans doing cartwheels with excitement after his offseason free agent signing, shut out the Nationals on Sunday. Capuano improved to 3-0 on the season with a 2.73 ERA.
Besides having the coolest high blue socks on the team, Capuano also has struck out 29 hitters in 29.2 innings this season. When he was signed, Capuano was probably viewed by management as a guy they hoped could survive the fourth or fifth starter’s spot without falling too flat on his face.
If Capuano keeps pitching like he has so far this season, the $3 million the Dodgers are paying him this season will be the best investment the team has made in a long time.
The most impressive part of the three-game sweep of the Nationals was the 4-3 victory the Dodgers pulled out on Saturday night. After (hopefully former) closer Javy Guerra blew things once again for Los Angeles in the top of the ninth, I thought the game was all but over.
The Dodgers trailed 3-1 with 100-mile-per-hour flamethrower Henry Rodriguez ready to close things out for the Nationals in the bottom of the ninth. The Dodgers pieced together two gritty runs with base hits from Mark Ellis, James Loney and Juan Uribe and some wild pitches from Rodriguez.
Of course, all-worldly Matt Kemp won the game for the Dodgers with his walk-off homer in the bottom of the 10th Saturday night, but the team scratched together the runs in the ninth that enabled Kemp to do his damage.
After handling the Nationals, the Dodgers find themselves with the largest lead of any division-leading team in the National League. Los Angeles leads the San Francisco Giants by four games in the NL West.
The Dodgers can control their own NL West destiny over the next few weeks. Los Angeles plays 13 of its next 16 games against NL West teams. Win the majority of those games and the Dodgers will do nothing but increase their division cushion.