The more runners that are on base, the better Chris Capuano seems to pitch. The Los Angeles Angels found out the hard way how much the Dodgers' left-hander digs in when he is in trouble.
Capuano outdueled Ervin Santana with seven gritty innings, leading the Dodgers to a 3-1 victory on Saturday in Game 2 of their "Freeway Series" revival and helping end the NL West leaders' four-game losing streak.
"He does a really good job of making pitches." batterymate A.J. Ellis said. "When guys are on base, the opposing hitters are a little more aggressive. And that plays into Cappy's hands because of his ability to throw his off-speed stuff. Cappy's been amazing, the way he's been throwing the ball — and it started in spring training. He has a lot more velocity on his fastball. And when he has that, it makes all his off-speed stuff better."
Capuano (9-2) allowed a run and seven hits, struck out four and walked none while lowering his ERA from 2.71 to 2.51. The eight-year veteran worked with runners on base in every inning except the second, giving up a leadoff hit in each of his last four innings. He also benefited from a late-afternoon starting time for national television.
"He was mixing his pitches in and out and keeping us off-balance," Angels slugger Albert Pujols said. "He threw a great game. He kept the ball down, made the pitches when he needed to and got a couple of double plays. But it was also pretty tough to see the ball after the second inning with those shadows out there. I'm not making any excuses, but you should have seen the way both sides were taking swings. It was ridiculous. But you can't take anything away from Capuano."
Ronald Belisario pitched a scoreless eighth and Kenley Jansen worked a perfect ninth for his 12th save in 15 chances.
The Dodgers grabbed a 2-0 lead in the first with the help of throwing errors by the Angels' infield. Dee Gordon singled, stole second on a pitchout and advanced on grounder wide of first base by Jerry Hairston Jr. Pujols went for the lead runner instead of the sure out, but his low throw skipped off Gordon as he slid into third and Gordon continued home.
"That's a play that I make a lot," said Pujols, who made a similar gambit in Game 4 of year's NLDS to help St. Louis beat Philadelphia. "I saw him in the corner of my eye, and I figured if I throw him out right there, they don't score that inning. It was a gamble play. I know it's early in the game, but that isn't going to take any aggressiveness out of me.
"If it happens again tomorrow and I've got an opportunity, I'm going to try to do it again. This isn't going to stop the way I play the game. ... If I make that play, it's a great play. But it didn't work out."
Hairston ended up at second on Pujols' third error of the season and advanced on a wild pitch. He scored when Izturis fielded Juan Rivera's two-out grounder and pulled Pujols off the bag with a high throw.
Howie Kendrick legged out a double to left-center leading off the Angels' fifth, and Izturis followed with a chopper off the plate that Capuano made a diving stop on to the right of the mound before throwing him out. Kendrick got to third on the play and scored on Erick Aybar's single in the hole off the glove of a diving Gordon at shortstop, cutting the Dodgers' lead to 2-1.
John Hester followed with a single, and Gordon made a diving stop of Mike Trout's hard smash through the box — but could only get the force as Trout beat the relay to first. Center fielder Elian Herrera then robbed Torii Hunter of extra bases with a leaping catch in left-center for the third out, preventing the potential tying and go-ahead runs from scoring.
Santana (4-8) was charged with three runs — two earned — and four hits over eight innings with 10 strikeouts and no walks. The right-hander, coming off a one-hit shutout against Arizona, retired 21 of his last 24 batters. He has allowed one earned run in 16 innings over his last two starts, after going 1-1 with a 10.18 ERA over his previous four outings.
"It's good to see him throwing the ball pretty well — but at the same time, we didn't score a lot of runs for him," Pujols said. "It's tough to win games when you don't score, and that's what happened to him in April. But he's a great pitcher, and he needs to keep his head up like he did today — even though they scored those two early runs. He was able to keep us in the game and give us an opportunity to win."
Santana retired 13 consecutive batters after Uribe's error, but Gordon broke the string in the sixth with a leadoff triple over the head of left fielder Mark Trumbo, and Hairston drove in the Dodgers' third run with a sharp single off the glove Izturis as he played the ball near the line.
Gordon appeared to beat out a bunt single leading off the seventh, but umpire C.B. Bucknor ruled him out on a headfirst slide after second baseman Kendrick charged the ball and made a sidearm flip to Pujols.
NOTES: Gordon has 22 stolen bases in 29 attempts, Trout 20 steals in 23 chances. Trout swiped second in the eighth after his leadoff single against Belisario. ... The Dodgers are 16-29 at Anaheim during the regular season since interleague play was established in 1997, and 38-53 overall against the Angels.