Mark Ellis, Chris Capuano Lead Dodgers over Rockies. Dodgers 6, Rockies 1

Thursday night was Adrian Gonzalez Bobblehead Night at Dodger Stadium, and a sellout crowd of 52,750 turned out in force to welcome the Dodgers home from a 7-2 road trip.  The atmosphere at Dodger Stadium was electric and despite the slight hint of mist in the air and even a few rain drops it was a wonderful night for baseball in Los Angeles.  Those who attended were treated by the sort of baseball thats become commonplace the last few weeks, plenty of hits, plenty of runs, and a pitching performance worthy of attention and admiration.

Mark Ellis, who has played a solid second base when healthy this year and shown some hot flashes with the bat, picked up the Dodger offense in a big way out of the leadoff slot on Thursday night at Dodger Stadium, driving in four runs en route to a 6-1 Dodger victory over the visiting Colorado Rockies.

Ellis led another hit barrage as the Dodgers wore out opposing pitchers to the tune of six runs and thirteen hits, and Chris Capuano gained some redemption after two recent shaky outings saw him get temporarily demoted to the bullpen, striking out eight batters over 6 1/3 shutout innings as the Dodgers won their fifth straight game and 16th in their last 19 games played.

Mark Ellis drove in four of the Dodgers’ six runs on Thursday night. The veteran second baseman raised his season average to .261 with a 3-for-4, 4 RBI night and has proven to be a spark plug in the Dodgers’ lineup at times. (Image source: http://ww3.hdnux.com/photos/22/35/03/4837586/3/628×471.jpg)

The team finds itself over .500 for the first time since mid-April at 46-45, a game and a half behind the first place Arizona Diamondbacks who won their game against the Milwaukee Brewers by the score of 5-3 in the desert to hold steady at the top of the division.  The Rockies fall 4 1/2 back of the Diamondbacks with the loss, and the gap between the second place Dodgers and the third place Diamondbacks is now 3 games.

For Capuano, it was a night of redemption.  Capuano’s last start at Dodger Stadium saw the pitcher give up 7 runs in 2 1/3 innings in an eventual 16-1 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies in which Dodger utility infielder Skip Schumaker pitched the ninth inning to save the Dodgers’ bullpen arms.  Capuano’s ability to pitch into the seventh inning the night after a 14 inning, 7-5 victory over Arizona minimized manager Don Mattingly’s use of the bullpen and, combined with the Dodgers’ six runs, allowed recently heavily-used Chris Withrow and Kenley Jansen to get a night off.

Chris Capuano showed signs of returning to form, striking out eight batters in 6 1/3 shutout innings before leaving to a standing ovation from an enthusiastic Dodger Stadium crowd. (Image source: Newsday at http://cdn.newsday.com/polopoly_fs/1.3812539.1340933758!/httpImage/image.JPG_gen/derivatives/display_600/image.JPG)

Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford were both given the night off from starting duties, with Scott Van Slyke playing right field, Jerry Hairston, Jr. playing left field, and Yasiel Puig playing his first career game in center field.

The Dodgers started their scoring in the bottom of the second inning.  Juan Uribe singled with one out, then Jerry Hairston, Jr. hit a double down the left field line that went all the way into the corner.  Uribe came in from first all the way home.  A strong throw from left fielder Carlos Gonzalez to catcher Wilin Rosario appeared to beat Uribe, but the throw came in high and Rosario dropped the ball as he came down to apply the tag on the sliding Uribe.  With the ball safely on the ground, Uribe stepped on the plate to confirm that he, in fact, had scored, and the Dodgers had a 1-0 lead.

The Dodgers stretched their lead in the bottom of the fourth.  Uribe drew a walk, then much to the shock of just about everyone in the ballpark, got a read on left-handed starter Drew Pomeranz and took off for second base.  Rosario’s throw from behind home plate was not on time and Uribe picked up his second steal of the season.  Consecutive walks to Hairston and Tim Federowicz loaded the bases and brought a mound visit.  Pomeranz managed to strike out Chris Capuano for the first out, but Mark Ellis banged  a single into left field, scoring Uribe and Hairston.  Federowicz was thrown out at third by Carlos Gonzalez on the play, but the Dodger lead was 3-0.  Pomeranz left the game after the fourth inning having given up three runs on seven hits while issuing five walks against only three strikeouts over 91 pitches, his third consecutive start since joining the Rockies rotation in which he failed to complete five innings of work and the second in which he failed to get past the fourth.

Chris Capuano continued to be locked in, lifted in the seventh inning after throwing 90 pitches on the game.  Capuano got one out in the seventh before running out of gas and giving way to Ronald Belisaro.  Capuano’s line: 90 pitches thrown, 6 1/3 innings, 0 runs, 6 hits allowed, 8 strikeouts and no walks issued.  For his efforts in the game after his recent struggles, the Dodger Stadium crowd stood up and gave Capuano a loud and well-deserved standing ovation.  Ronald Belisario entered the game in relief of Capuano and promptly got a double play ball to get out of the inning.  Belisario would also keep the Rockies from scoring in the eighth to keep the Dodger lead at 3-0.

Yasiel Puig exited the game after a seventh inning strikeout after allegedly aggravating a hip injury suffered in a collision with the right field wall at Coors Field last week, and Andre Ethier replaced him to a rousing ovation as the Dodger Stadium crowd saw him up on the big screens.  Ethier responded to the ovation with a clearly enthusiastic smile.  The outfielder, who struggled through the first two months of the season, has hit .345 since June 6th and played all three outfield positions while stating he wants to remain in Los Angeles and play for the Dodgers.  His play and his words have struck a chord with fans, and after months of trade rumors involving Ethier, it’s clear that the fan favorite is speaking with his bat and his words in a way that not only indicates his desire to be here, but that make the argument as to why he should.

“The Scowl” is gone and the smile is back on Andre Ethier’s face (not to mention the swagger’s back in his step) as the once-embattled outfielder has hit .345 since June 6th, raising his average from .232 to .273. Ethier’s 8th inning sacrifice fly extended the Dodger lead to 6-0, and his presence in the outfield drew a standing ovation from the Dodger Stadium faithful last night. (Image source: http://media.kansascity.com/smedia/2013/07/07/20/33/329-ecZFe.St.55.jpeg)

The Dodgers got three more runs in the bottom of the eighth inning.  An infield single by Jerry Hairston, Jr. was followed by a bad throw by Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki on a ground ball off the bat of Tim Federowicz.  Tulowitzki appeared to have the play under control and the Rockies looked like they would get a double play out of the deal, but the short throw to second baseman Josh Rutledge was slightly off line and got away, resulting in runners on first and second with nobody out.  Carl Crawford, pinch hitting for Ronald Belisario laid a bunt down the third base line and beat the throw to first to load the bases.  Mark Ellis, who had already driven in two runs, drove a ball into left-center field that scored Hairston and Federowicz to give the Dodgers a 5-0 lead.  Ethier continued to flash his hot bat, driving a ball to the warning track in right-center field that scored Crawford and gave the Dodgers a 6-0 lead.

Brandon League had a bad news, good news kind of ninth inning.  The beleaguered former closer gave up a leadoff homer to National League home run leader Carlos Gonzalez that required a tape measure, landing halfway up the seats in the Right Field Pavilion for the slugger’s 25th home run of the season.  League then struck out Troy Tulowitzki and Michael Cuddyer before inducing a weak groundout from Wilin Rosario to end the game.  League also had Gonzalez down 0-2 in the count before Gonzalez worker in a ball and blasted the home run.  League has had a difficult time getting the ball past hitters this year, so despite the long home run, League’s two strikeouts were encouraging and it does appear that whatever the Dodger pitching coach staff is doing with him is getting some results.

Capuano moves to 3-6 with the win, lowering his ERA down to 4.63.  Pomeranz takes the loss, dropping to 0-3 while watching his ERA drop to 8.76.

The weekend series continues tonight at Dodger Stadium at 7:10 p.m.  Clayton Kershaw (8-5, 1.89 ERA) looks to continue to state his case about why he should be the 2013 Cy Young Award winner.  He’ll be opposed by the Rockies’ Juan Nicasio (4-4, 5.31 ERA.)  Friday night fireworks at the ballpark tonight.

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