WASHINGTON — Scott Olsen was back to form, helping the Washington Nationals close out a long homestand on a productive note.
Olsen pitched seven shutout innings for his first victory since having shoulder surgery in July and Matt Capps worked around a leadoff double in the ninth to preserve the Nationals’ 1-0 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday.
“For today, it feels good,” said Olsen of his first victory since July 5. “Enjoy this for about 20 more minutes and then start thinking about six days from now.”
The Dodgers’ Chad Billingsley (1-1) gave up four hits and an Adam Dunn RBI groundout over six innings.
“I was being a little more aggressive with my fastball today, and just pretty much went out there today and kept it simple, just went after guys,” Billingsley said. “It was a tough one, a close one, a real pitchers’ game. I tried to stay away from anything fancy out there.”
Olsen (1-1) allowed six hits, walked one and struck out eight in his third start since being recalled from Triple-A Syracuse on April 15. The left-hander’s disappointing 2009 season — 2-4 with a 6.03 ERA in 11 starts after being acquired in a trade from Florida — ended with surgery. He failed to make the Nationals out of spring training because of diminished velocity.
“His concentration level was at a peak,” Washington manager Jim Riggleman said of Olsen. “You could tell. Every pitch, he was driven to make a good pitch. He kept battling, made great pitches (and) went further than I thought he could go today.”
While Olsen’s fastball has returned to its low-90s form, it was an effective slider that confounded the Dodgers on Sunday.
“We were down in the zone for the most part all day,” Olsen said. “We got ahead in the count and when we got ahead in the count, the slider was working well so we stayed with that. … We got a lot of swings and misses with it.”
Tyler Clippard worked the eighth and Capps finished the seven-hitter for his major league-leading eighth save.
The Dodgers threatened in the ninth, when James Loney opened with a double down the left-field line. But Capps got Casey Blake on a bouncer to second, right fielder Justin Maxwell made a diving grab of Ronnie Belliard’s pop to short right and Garret Anderson flied out to center.
“I knew (Belliard) got in on it a little bit, so I just started to hauling it in and made the play,” Maxwell said. “You can just call them Willie Harris plays, because he’s the one who usually does that at the end of the game. It was my turn today, and Hammer, too.”
Maxwell was referring to left fielder Josh Willingham, who dived to snag Rafael Furcal’s sinking liner leading off the eighth.
Olsen kept the Dodgers off-balance for his first win over Los Angeles, the only National League team he had not beaten. Olsen was 0-3 against the Dodgers.
The triumph capped a 6-4 homestand for Washington, which has alternated wins and losses in its past eight contests but sits a game over .500.
“It just shows how far our pitching’s come. … For the most part, when we’ve won our games, we have great starts and our bullpen’s been solid,” Maxwell said. “It just shows that pitching and defense really do win.”
The Dodgers loaded the bases in the first on consecutive singles to center by Russell Martin, Matt Kemp and Loney. But Olsen fanned Blake and got Belliard to fly to center. The left-hander allowed only one runner to reach second base after that — Blake, on a one-out double in the fifth.
“We let (Olsen) off the hook the first inning,” Blake said. “A lot of times, you do that with a pitcher and they’re going to stick around.”
Added Dodgers manager Joe Torre: “Unfortunately, we had that opportunity in the first and then in the last but not much in between.”
Washington took the lead in its half of the first. Nyjer Morgan led off with a single to left, Adam Kennedy drew a walk and both runners moved up on Cristian Guzman’s sacrifice. Dunn’s grounder to second scored Morgan.
That provided the only offense in Washington’s second shutout of the season. The Dodgers were blanked for the second time this year.
“We need to get better. We just need to get it all together,” said Torre, whose team has started a nine-game road trip 2-4.
NOTES: After going 0 for 3 against Billingsley, Willingham is 0 for 11 in his career versus the right-hander. … 3B Ryan Zimmerman was out of the starting lineup for a fourth straight game with right hamstring soreness but hopes to play in the Nationals’ series that begins Monday in Chicago. “It depends on how it feels tomorrow,” he said after batting practice. “It’s looking better and better each day.” Zimmerman lined out as a pinch hitter in the seventh, and was under orders not to run hard. … The Dodgers have lost 11 of 18 games in D.C.