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PIT@LAD: Guerra's save gives LA best start since 1981

LOS ANGELES -- Chris Capuano got his first victory, James Loney his first hit and the Dodgers their first series sweep of the season Thursday night with a 3-2 win over the Pirates.

The 6-1 start is the Dodgers' best since 1981, and the title banner under the Stadium Club is lasting proof of how good that year turned out.

"It's really early," manager Don Mattingly said when asked if parallels could be drawn. "I'd like to say it means a ton. It means enough that we've gotten out of the box and we're confident we can win a lot of different ways. It's good for our confidence."

A pretty good start, especially considering the lukewarm preseason support the first-place Dodgers received from the experts.

"We don't care what expectations other people have," Matt Kemp said. "We know how good we can be. In the second half last year we were hard to beat. This whole year we're going to be hard to beat."

While Capuano held it together for five more outs than his fifth-inning implosion in San Diego, and Loney put to rest his 0-for-16 start, this win was built around the bullpen, which pitched 8 2/3 scoreless innings in the series.

With a 1-2-3 ninth inning, Javy Guerra notched save No. 5, which leads the Major Leagues, and has allowed one hit in five innings. He saved each of this series' three games and he's appeared in five of the Dodgers' seven games, putting him on pace for 116 appearances.

Who does he think he is, Mike Marshall?

"Who's that?" Guerra asked, unaware that the Dodgers had a Cy Young-winning reliever who appeared in 106 games in 1974.

Like Marshall, though, Guerra wants the ball.

"The way we're playing, I'd throw every day if I could," he said. "I could throw tomorrow. I'm still young, I'll be all right."

Kenley Jansen needed a night off after pitching Tuesday and Wednesday, so Matt Guerrier pitched the eighth, going back-to-back for the first time. Guerrier, who admitted that he tried too hard to prove himself in his first season in Los Angeles last year, has thrown five scoreless innings so far.

"A lot of people talked about switching with Kenley, that one guy profiles better than another guy, but when a guy goes out there like Javy did last year and performs," Mattingly said, "it's hard not to stick with him. And he doesn't have a lot of top-step [nervous] saves. He gets the job done."

Josh Lindblom held the Pirates at bay in the seventh and now has five scoreless innings, even though he knows he could be sent back to the Minor Leagues Saturday when Ted Lilly is activated.

"It's something I can't control," said Lindblom, who had a large welt on his right calf from a Jose Tabata comebacker.

"I've learned from veterans like [Todd] Coffey, Matt [Guerrier] and Jamey [Wright] that this is a career-long thing. I'm fortunate to have their leadership. If I have to go down and they keep a veteran, I'll work very hard to get back here. It's not a question of can I pitch in the big leagues? I know I can do that."

It took Scott Elbert and Mike MacDougal to extinguish the rally inherited from Capuano, who struck out seven without a walk in 5 1/3 innings, charged with two runs.

"Overall, I'm happy," Capuano said. "The first win can be tough coming to a new team. That win, the bullpen deserves credit."

Capuano said he took responsibility for forcing the bullpen into early action in the season's third game, when he filled in for Lilly with five of his club's 10 walks.

"In the pitchers' meeting leading into this series, we knew we couldn't give up walks, we had to challenge hitters," he said. "That was foremost in our minds coming into the series."

Dodgers pitchers didn't issue a walk in this series until MacDougal walked Michael McKenry in the sixth inning.

Capuano was given a 3-0 lead in the first inning. Mark Ellis singled, Kemp doubled and Andre Ethier was hit in the back by a Jeff Karstens pitch to load the bases. They all scored as Juan Rivera hit a sacrifice fly, Loney singled in the second run and Juan Uribe singled in the third run.

McKenry put the Pirates on the board with one out in the fifth inning on a long solo home run to center field.

Andrew McCutchen led off the top of the sixth with his third hit of the game (he's 9-for-11 lifetime off Capuano), was singled to third by Casey McGehee and scored on Yamaico Navarro's sacrifice fly.

"He pitched backwards: Soft early, hard late" Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said of Capuano. "Nothing we weren't aware of, we talked about it. But once you're in the batter's box, you have to take ownership of the at-bat, and we aren't doing a good job of that collectively." Comments