Accidental Aces: Capuano and Lilly

Chris Capuano is 5-1 with a 2.34 ERA for the Dodgers so far this season. AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

We take a statistical look at the Los Angeles Dodgers, focusing on games from May 11 to May 17. As always, Baseball-Reference.com lends a huge helping hand.

Capuano and Lilly off to great starts

Chris Capuano picked up a win Friday, and Ted Lilly did the same Sunday. Each improved to 5-0 on the season (although Capuano took a loss in his next start Wednesday). It’s the first time a pair of Dodgers starters began the year 5-0 since 1981, when Fernando Valenzuela and Burt Hooton started 8-0 and 7-0, respectively. It’s only the fourth time in the last 50 seasons two Dodgers starters began the year 5-0.

Multiple 5-0 Dodgers Starters
Last 50 Seasons

In his win Sunday, Lilly allowed five runs on six hits, the first time he’d allowed more than four hits or two runs in a start since last September, a span of eight straight starts. Since the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles, no other Dodger had a streak longer than five starts allowing four or fewer hits and two or fewer runs. The only pitcher in the last 90 years with a longer streak is Johan Santana, who made nine such starts in a row in 2004.

Kershaw avoids the home run

Clayton Kershaw picked up his third win of the season Monday, tossing seven scoreless innings to beat the Diamondbacks. The start broke a string of three straight starts in which he’d allowed at least one home run. It may seem obvious, but especially key for Kershaw is keeping the ball in the park. Dating back to 2010, he’s won his last 19 decisions in starts in which he hasn’t allowed a home run; that’s the longest such streak since Mike Mussina won 24 straight from 2003 to 2006.

Diamondbacks no match for Kershaw

Kershaw has dominated the Diamondbacks at Dodger Stadium over his career, especially in the last two seasons. Since the start of the 2011 season, Kershaw has made three starts in L.A. against the Diamondbacks, winning all three. Over 19 innings, he’s allowed no runs and eight hits while striking out 21. In his career, Kershaw is 4-0 with a 1.31 ERA in six home starts against Arizona.

Left-handed trio

Capuano, Lilly and Kershaw each picked up wins over the week and together form the top left-handed starting pitching trio in baseball. They’ve combined for 13 wins; no other team has more than eight wins from left-handed starters.

Bullpen getting on track

The Dodgers’ bullpen was terrific over the last week, allowing four earned runs over 16 1/3 innings (2.20 ERA). Dating back to the beginning of the Giants’ series on May 7, the Dodgers’ bullpen has a 1.42 ERA, best in the National League over that time. Entering May 7, the Dodgers’ bullpen ERA stood at 4.39.

Belisario stays grounded

One reason for the relief resurgence has been the return of Ronald Belisario. Belisario, who missed all of 2011 and the first month of 2012, hasn’t allowed a run in 5 2/3 innings since making his season debut May 5. Opponents are hitting 2 for 19 (.105) against him. Right-handed hitters are 0 for 9 with five groundouts.

Belisario’s sinker has been extremely effective; it’s the only pitch he’s thrown, and 12 of the 15 balls in play against him have been grounders. During the week, Belisario did not allow a hit to any of the 10 hitters he faced, and all six balls put in play against him resulted in groundouts.

Gwynn excels off the bench

Tony Gwynn Jr.’s pinch-hit single in the bottom of the eighth Saturday night gave the Dodgers a 2-1 win over the Rockies. Gwynn now has driven in six runs on the season; five have come as a pinch-hitter. He’s driven in one run over his 15 starts.

It was the first go-ahead pinch hit in the Dodgers’ final at-bat in almost a year, dating back to a walk-off single by Dioner Navarro last May 27 against the Marlins.

Big inning for Dodgers

The Dodgers’ six-run fifth inning Sunday was their highest-scoring inning of the season, and it featured only two run-scoring plays; a three-run double by Bobby Abreu and a three-run homer by A.J. Ellis. The Dodgers hadn’t had two three-run hits in the same inning since August 24, 2004, when Adrian Beltre hit a grand slam and Alex Cora hit a three-run homer in an eight-run fifth inning in Montreal.

Billingsley doesn’t stick around

Chad Billingsley lasted only four innings Tuesday night, allowing four runs before being taken out. It was second straight four-inning start. Since the start of 2011, Billingsley has made seven starts of four innings or fewer, tied with Francisco Liriano, Rick Porcello and Jo-Jo Reyes for the most in baseball.

Run prevention

The Dodgers have allowed five runs or fewer in 13 consecutive games, the team’s longest streak since a 31-gamer in 2009. The 31-game streak was the longest by any team since 1973. In each of the three games immediately preceding the current streak, the Dodgers surrendered at least six runs in Colorado.

Ethier the constant

If Andre Ethier looked around Wednesday and had a hard time recognizing his teammates, it would be tough to blame him. He was the only Dodger in Wednesday’s lineup who was also in the team’s Opening Day lineup. Ethier is the only Dodger to appear in every game this season.

Dodgers off to best start since 1983

Before losses Tuesday and Wednesday, the Dodgers’ record through 35 games stood at 24-11 after a five-game winning streak. It was the Dodgers’ best 35-game start since 1983, when the team started 25-10. Each of the previous four times the Dodgers started at least 24-11 in the Divisional Era the team went on to make the playoffs.