Dodgers try to stay on winning track vs. Nationals

It's still premature to determine if the Los Angeles Dodgers have righted themselves, but at least they're back in the win column.

The Dodgers look to stay on victory road when they welcome the Washington Nationals to Chavez Ravine Monday for the opener of a three-game series.

What had been an ugly start to the month of May with eight straight losses, the Dodgers took the last two installments of a three-game series versus the Miami Marlins over the weekend. Saturday's 7-1 win ended the losing streak and a subsequent 5-3 victory in the finale gave the Dodgers a series triumph.

Prior to their last two wins, the Dodgers were heavily criticized for their struggles with a payroll more than $200 million and manager Don Mattingly was suddenly on the proverbial hot seat.

But a three-run bottom of the seventh on Sunday put the Dodgers on top, 5-1, thanks to RBI singles from Carl Crawford and Scott Van Slyke. Andre Ethier sandwiched a sacrifice fly in between the run-scoring hits and the Dodgers pushed their mark to 2-4 on a nine-game homestand. Van Slyke also homered and Crawford continued his recent tear. In his last 13 games, Crawford is batting .327 with four homers and seven RBI.

Dodgers starter Chris Capuano yielded just one run and five hits while registering seven strikeouts over 6 1/3 innings for the win.

"Cap was really good," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "He made a determination to pitch his own game. He wasn't over-thinking today and he used his pitches."

Brandon League made it interesting in the ninth by allowing two runs and three hits, but managed to settle down.

Dodgers slugger Adrian Gonzalez was not in the lineup Sunday with a neck issue and was forced to leave Saturday's game because of the problem. He sustained the injury on May 1 after colliding with first-base umpire Tony Randazzo against the Colorado Rockies. That's why Van Slyke started on Sunday.

"It just seems to keep going on," Mattingly said of Gonzalez prior to Sunday's game. "We're trying to get on the other side of this thing."

Josh Beckett is still searching for his first win of the season for the Dodgers and is 0-4 with a 5.13 earned run average in seven starts. He did not record a decision in Tuesday's 5-3 loss versus Arizona and was reached for three runs and nine hits in six innings. He has allowed 16 runs in his previous four outings.

Beckett is 0-2 in four home starts this season, but that could change judging by his career success against the Nationals. The right-hander has faced Washington 17 times (16 starts) and is 7-2 with a 2.46 ERA.

The Nationals have landed on the western seaboard for a 10-game road trip against the Dodgers, San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants.

Washington lost the final two installments of a three-game home series with the Chicago Cubs and dropped the set with Sunday's 2-1 setback. Gio Gonzalez flirted with a perfect game and was flawless through five innings, but the bullpen eventually blew the left-hander's gem.

Gonzalez tossed seven shutout innings, struck out six and scattered just two hits in the no-decision, while Rafael Soriano was dealt the loss for allowing an unearned run on a throwing error by catcher Kurt Suzuki in the ninth. Drew Storen blew the save for giving up a run and three hits in the eighth.

"Anytime you lose a ballgame, especially after you lead late and lose a ballgame, it's a missed opportunity, no doubt about it," said Nationals manager Davey Johnson.

Ryan Zimmerman was the lone highlight of the offense with two hits and drove in the team's only run. Washington had won five in a row and seven of eight games before losing twice to the Cubs and is one game behind Atlanta for the NL East lead.

Nationals reliable right-hander Jordan Zimmermann draws the start in the west coast opener and is a solid 6-1 with a 1.59 earned run average in seven outings. He has only given up one run in his last three assignments and tossed seven innings of one-run ball in a 3-1 win over Detroit on Wednesday.

Zimmermann, who has pitched seven-plus innings five times this season, is 1-0 with a 5.25 ERA in two career starts against the Dodgers.

Washington and L.A. are meeting for the first time since the Dodgers won four of six matchups a season ago. The Dodgers are 10-4 in the last 14 matchups in this series.