LOS ANGELES — The Washington Nationals came to town with the lowest team ERA in the majors and got a chance to unveil two of their best offensive prospects. The Los Angeles Dodgers outpitched manager Davey Johnson’s staff and got a number of key hits along the way for a three-game sweep.
Chris Capuano struck out nine while combining with two relievers on a four-hitter, James Loney drove in two runs with a bases-loaded single and the Dodgers wound up with a 2-0 win Sunday.
At 16-6, the Dodgers matched their best start since 1981 and moved 10 games over .500 for the first time since July 11, 2010.
“We’ve got a great mix of guys, and we’re going to need that through the long season to win games,” Loney said. “A big hit, a big defensive play, and big baserunning play — all that stuff is going to matter. And it’s going to take all of us to do that.”
Capuano (3-0) allowed three hits and two walks in 6 2-3 innings, helping send the Nationals to their fourth straight loss and first shutout defeat of the season after they entered the series with a 14-5 record. They had a combined total of three runs and 11 hits in 21 2-3 innings against Capuano, Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley.
“They pitched us pretty tough and kept the ball in on us the whole series, and we didn’t really make a lot of adjustments,” Johnson said. “But they’ve got a pretty good pitching staff over there. We pitched good enough to win, but it just wasn’t good enough.”
Kenley Jansen followed Josh Lindblom out of the bullpen and pitched a hitless ninth for his second save in three chances after starting out with six straight balls and getting a visit from pitching coach Rick Honeycutt. Jansen then struck out his next two batters and fanned Jesus Flores with runners at first and second to end it.
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly met with closer Javy Guerra before the game after the right-hander allowed five runs and nine hits over two innings in his last three appearances. Mattingly told reporters that he would keep Guerra in that role instead of replacing him with Jansen.
“I understand the clamoring and what people say I should do, but at this point I don’t feel like it’s the right thing,” Mattingly said earlier. “What’s the alternative if you make a change and it doesn’t work out? Do we just go down the list and keep trying guys? Is it a tryout camp at that point? My biggest concern with Javy last night was no swag. It’s never his stuff. It was the lack of the bounce in the step and the confidence and commitment. That’s what scared me.”
Lefty Gio Gonzalez (2-1) allowed two runs, three hits and five walks through six innings, and struck out seven. He’d gone 6-0 in his previous eight starts since last Sept. 12 — the Nationals haven’t scored more than two runs in any of his five starts while he’s been in the game.
Gonzalez, who issued only four walks over his previous three starts combined, matched zeros with Capuano through five innings before walking Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Juan Uribe in succession with one out in the sixth. Loney then lined a 1-2 pitch the other way to left-center.
“He has really good control overall, so I was just trying to go up there and react,” Loney said. “I didn’t hit it that hard, as far as squaring it up. But as far as the swing, it felt good.”
Loney’s clutch hit ended a scoreless streak of 25 innings by Gonzalez, the longest by a Nationals pitcher since the franchise left Montreal.
“I kind of beat myself out of that game. I was trying to be too perfect, and it kind of got away from me,” Gonzalez said. “They’ve got a good lineup, so you’ve got to be cautious with some of the guys you face. All it was was one pitch, and that made the difference. If I got that pitch down to Loney, it’s different ballgame. But I left it up to a good hitter, and he did his job and put it in play. So you just have to learn to move on and turn the page fast.”
Tyler Moore, the Nationals’ minor league player of the year in 2010, made his major league debut in left field and was 1 for 4 after getting promoted from Triple-A Syracuse.
On Saturday night, top prospect Bryce Harper made his big league debut for the Nats in left field and went 1 for 3 with a double and sacrifice fly. Harper shifted to center field on Sunday after Jayson Werth was a late scratch because of severe migraines. According to Johnson, Werth spent most of the game in the trainer’s room.
“He did come out around the eighth inning and said if I needed him, he could hit,” Johnson said. “But I was reluctant to use him.”
Gonzalez was struck on his pitching arm by a line drive off Kemp’s bat leading off the fourth, but recovered in time to throw him out. He then walked Ethier on four pitches before Harper made his first defensive gem in the big leagues — robbing Uribe of extra bases with a running catch and slamming into the padded fence before falling to the ground.
Harper went 1 for 3 with a walk.
NOTES: Moore singled in the fifth for his first big league hit. A roster spot opened up for him when the Nationals placed INF Mark DeRosa on the 15-day disabled list because of an oblique strain on his left side. … The Dodgers have already swept three series of three games, matching their entire total for last season. … Only two players in the Nats’ lineup entered Sunday with more than three RBIs — cleanup hitter Adam LaRoche (17) and leadoff man Ian Desmond (seven). … Gonzalez has yet to allow a home run in 29 2-3 innings after giving up 17 last year. … Capuano is 6 2-3 innings away from 1,000 in his nine-year career. … Jansen has allowed no earned runs in 8 1-3 career innings against Washington.