For a long while, the Los Angeles Dodgers made Chris Capuano work hard to keep them from blowing a slim lead for the second straight day, but he was up to the task in a 5-0 win at Marlins Park on Sunday.
Capuano carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning and the Dodgers broke through for some late runs, giving the Dodgers a promising start to a 10-game road trip. The Dodgers won two of three games against the Miami Marlins and now travel to Pittsburgh for four games, a series that could have a major impact on the NL wild-card race.
No-hit stuff. It kind of snuck up on you. Chris Capuano was cruising so efficiently, with a manageable pitch count and so few jams, it was a little surprising to see him pitching in the seventh inning with a no-hitter going. It didn't last for long, as Jose Reyes lined a clean single to center with one out, but he was only seven outs away. Capuano struck out 10 batters, allowed just two hits and needed only 102 pitches over eight innings. These are the kinds of performances that can lift a team in a pennant race. They also might put Capuano back on track. He had lost his previous three starts with a 6.75 ERA.
Key contributions. Hanley Ramirez hasn't been tearing the cover off the ball since he became a Dodger, but when it counts, he has come through. Ramirez has nine hits in 21 at-bats with runners in scoring position and he drove in 60 percent of the Dodgers' runs Sunday. It was a nice homecoming weekend for Ramirez, who was able to perform in front of family and friends and punish the Marlins for dealing him.
Bounteous table. Shane Victorino and Mark Ellis combined to get on base five times Sunday. They're starting to look like a nice combination at the top of the lineup. Victorino clearly is going to make Ellis better, because he gets on base and distracts the pitcher. Ellis handles the bat beautifully and is as fundamentally sound as they come, so he should get Victorino plenty of chances to score. He dropped a beautiful bunt for a hit to stoke an early rally. Ellis was college roommates with David Eckstein at Florida and you won't find two major-leaguers in recent seasons with a better grasp of the little things.
Costly whiffs. Matt Kemp struck out on a bad pitch to leave the bases loaded Saturday and he did it again Sunday. The difference is the first time there were two outs when he came up. The Dodgers managed to squeeze a run out of the rally on Sunday when Ramirez lined a sacrifice fly to left. Still, the rally should have been a little more fruitful and Kemp has appeared a bit overanxious recently in clutch at-bats.
Personal Treanor. Misty May-Treanor, the gold-medal winning wife of catcher Matt Treanor, was back from London and attending Sunday's game in South Florida. That had to inspire her husband, but it wasn't able to coax any hits out of him. Treanor has made his living with his catching skills, but even by the low standards of a .223 lifetime average, Treanor has struggled this season (batting .186). If the Dodgers had better production from the corners of their infield, they could absorb a light-hitting catcher, but there is a reason A.J. Ellis has been catching so many games. He's a big upgrade offensively.
Missing piece. Don Mattingly keeps plugging Juan Rivera into RBI spots in his lineup and sometimes -- like Saturday -- Rivera makes that look smart. But Rivera isn't coming close to matching his solid 2011 season for the Dodgers and he's clearly at the back end of his career arc. Rivera is only 34, but -- five years removed from a serious broken-leg injury -- he has aged faster than many players. He is one of the slower runners in the league and is only an adequate fielder. When he's not hitting, there's not much point in playing him.