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COL@LAD: Capuano hurls seven innings of one-run ball

When the Padres and Dodgers open a brief two-game series Wednesday at Petco Park, the matchup will feature a clash of two left-handed starters headed in very different directions.

San Diego will send a struggling Clayton Richard to the mound to square off against the Dodgers' unbeaten Chris Capuano.

Richard has taken the loss in each of his last five starts, and hasn't posted a win since not allowing an earned run over seven strong innings against these same Dodgers in his season debut. In his six starts since, Richard is 0-5 with a 6.32 ERA.

So, given his disastrous start to the 2012 season and his 5-9 record a year ago, does Richard still feel he has the same stuff that made him a 14-game winner two seasons ago?

"At times," said Richard, who has a 2.21 ERA in three home starts and a 7.99 ERA in four road outings. "But it has not consistently been there. ... But I do think that we're getting close."

Richard will likely need to channel his inner-2010 self to keep the Padres in the game Friday, considering Capuano has allowed more than two runs just once this season for the Dodgers, who hold a six-game lead over the Giants in the National League West.

Opposite of Richard, Capuano's season debut was by far his worst start of the season. The southpaw allowed four runs in just 4 2/3 innings in a start that also came at San Diego's Petco Park. Capuano has allowed just six combined runs in six starts since, and takes the mound Wednesday at 5-0 with a 2.05 ERA.

The most important statistic for the two-time Tommy John surgery patient, though, may be the fact that he's completed seven innings in three of his last four outings. He didn't notch his third start of seven-plus innings until July 18 last season.

"It's not a thought for me," Capuano said of the past surgeries. "I feel like my arm is strong, and I don't even think about it. Early in the year last year, I had a little trouble getting past the fourth, fifth, sixth innings. But I felt better from that point."

Dodgers: Ellis providing some unexpected offense
Catcher A.J. Ellis has been a surprise source of offense for the Dodgers this season, hitting .322 after going 2-for-4 in Tuesday's loss to the D-backs.

With slugger Matt Kemp (strained left hamstring) and Juan Uribe (left wrist soreness) both landing on the disabled list Monday, Ellis' offensive production could provide a huge lift in the coming weeks. The 31-year-old catcher, who already has nine multihit efforts this season, had just 12 multihit games in 77 career games prior to this season.

"To be honest, I didn't think A.J. would be lighting it up offensively," manager Don Mattingly said. "He's really swinging the bat well. We expected the defense, the way he's handled the staff, all the preparation. What we're getting offensively, honestly, is more than I thought."

Padres: Guzman starting to find his swing
Left fielder Jesus Guzman seems to finally be settling in and finding the swing that led to his .312 average a season ago.

Guzman has recorded multiple hits in four of his last six starts, raising his average from .222 on May 4 to .277 entering play Wednesday. Prior to his recent hot streak, Guzman had yet to tally a single multihit effort in 24 games this season after doing so in 23 of his 76 games last year.

"I think Guzy had maybe some self-imposed high expectations based on last year, tried to do too much, tried to really add on to what he did last year," Padres manager Bud Black said recently. "I think now we are seeing more of Guzy, a little more loose, little bit more relaxed in the box, swinging at strikes, taking balls, bat speed has picked up a little bit, much better."

Worth noting
• Healthy Dodgers players are hitting a combined .176 (13-for-74) in their collective careers against Richard. That total doesn't include the injured Kemp, who is a career .348 hitter against the left-hander.

• The Dodgers are 6-1 against the Padres this season, and have won 16 of the last 19 meetings overall, dating to last season.

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