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Season's long journey brings Dodgers' Chris Capuano to his moment

October 07, 2013|By Steve Dilbeck
  • Dodgers hurler Chris Capuano in action Sunday during the fourth inning of the 13-6 win over the Atlanta Braves in Game 3 of the National League division series.
Dodgers hurler Chris Capuano in action Sunday during the fourth inning… (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images )

Sometimes you work and work, and it just doesn’t happen. You believe you’re the right person, believe it’s the right moment, but circumstances or someone in authority direct the moment elsewhere.

It all could have ended badly for Chris Capuano. The season had been strange from the beginning, when he showed up to spring training and found himself one of eight starters vying for five positions, and not real excited about a bullpen role.

Once the season started he was quickly on the disabled list with a calf strain. There would be another DL stint due to a shoulder strain. He had a stretch of six games in which he went 2-2 with a 2.55 ERA. He went through an odd period where he’d pitch great one game and then stink up the joint the next.

Then in the second inning of his Sept. 6 start, he strained his groin. While rehabbing it, he suffered a setback. The season was disappearing on him while his team was locking up a postseason spot.

In his 10-year career, Capuano had never pitched in the postseason.

Finally, in the last week of the season, he got in a pair of games as a reliever. He looked sharp but it seemed too late for him to make the postseason roster. But make it he did.

And then came Sunday. Easily lost amid the offensive outburst of the Dodgers’ 13-6 win were the three quiet innings thrown by Capuano. The Braves had chased starter Hyun-Jin Ryu after the third, and the Dodgers were looking for someone to calm the waters.

“He gave us exactly what we needed,” said catcher A.J. Ellis. “We needed nine outs in the middle of the game to keep them where they were at.”

Capuano, who had thrown a total of 3 2/3 innings the entire month of September, came in to hold the Braves scoreless for three innings. He did not allow a hit. His only trouble was walking the leadoff hitter in each inning.

“He had a great game plan,” Ellis said. “Walk the first guy in every inning and then work his way out of it, create a false sense of security for them. And he did it. He got through it.”

In his first postseason appearance, Capuano was the winning pitcher. That’s a long road from where his season began.

“Yeah, especially being injured on Sept. 6 and then having a setback,” Capuano said. “The groin didn’t really start feeling better until the last week of the season. For me just getting out there in two of the last three games was a victory, and then to find out that I was added to the roster to possibly contribute was just a bonus.

“I’m really excited to be here and get my first taste of the playoffs. My heart was pounding out there.”

When Capuano entered the game, the Dodgers had just gone back on top 6-4. But it had been a wild three innings.

“It felt like it had already been a long game at that point,” said Manager Don Mattingly. “We just needed to settle the game down. He gave us those three innings to kind of get us to the back of the bullpen. He kind of basically just put the game in order.”

Capuano kept working when a lot of players would have called it a season, when he had little reason to believe there would be a payoff. And then came Sunday.

“Really gratifying, especially coming from where I was hurt in September and not sure if I could finish the season,” he said. “It’s a great feeling. Savor it today and come back and get them tomorrow.”

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