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Dodgers off to best start since '81

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Dodgers off to best start since '81
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Los Angeles Dodgers' Juan Uribe connects for an RBI single during the first inning of a baseball game …

LOS ANGELES (AP) Chris Capuano likes what he sees so far from his new team and wants to do everything he can to keep it going.

Capuano struck out seven in his first home game with the Los Angeles Dodgers, who scored all of their runs in the first inning against Jeff Karstens and beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 3-2 on Thursday night to complete a three-game sweep.

The Dodgers are off to a 6-1 start - their best since 1981, when they won the World Series in Fernando Valenzuela's rookie year.

''I think it's a little early for comparisons, but it's a great way to start the season,'' Capuano said.

Capuano allowed two runs and six hits in 5 1-3 innings with no walks. The 33-year-old left-hander struck out five of his first eight batters, four of them on called third strikes with umpire Wally Bell working the plate.

''I'm really happy with my stuff,'' Capuano said. ''I feel like I've got great movement on the ball and pretty good command of my pitches, for the most part. But in the last game and this one, my location really started to suffer in the fifth and sixth innings. So that's something I'm going to have to look at so I can make quality pitches the whole game like I did the first four innings.''

Los Angeles' pitchers had a 25-0 strikeout-to-walk ratio in this series before Mike MacDougal's walk to Mike McKenry in the sixth. The last time the Dodgers' staff went an entire three-game series without issuing a base on balls was in July 1940, against the New York Giants at the Polo Grounds.

''After the San Diego series, that was something we focused on in our pitchers' meeting leading into this series - to cut down on the walks, attack the strike zone, challenge the hitters and make them beat us,'' Capuano said. ''That was foremost on our minds.''

Javy Guerra, the sixth Dodgers pitcher, pitched a perfect ninth for his fifth save in five attempts - all in a span of eight days.

Karstens (0-1) gave up seven hits, struck out three and walked one over five innings. Last season, the right-hander had a streak of 18 consecutive starts in which he was charged with no more than three earned runs and was only 7-5 during that stretch - which began with his second start after being inserted into the rotation.

''If you don't like coming out early, then don't give up runs early,'' Karstens said. ''In the Philly game I gave up a run early and here I gave up three runs early. Then I was able to settle down both times and felt more comfortable as the game went on. It's just something I'm going through right now, so we'll address it and see where it takes us and what we need to do to fix it.''

Andrew McCutchen, who had three hits for the Pirates, was stranded at third base in the first and fourth innings. The Pirates finally got him home in the sixth with a sacrifice fly by Yamaico Navarro, after McCutchen led off with a single and took third on Casey McGehee's base hit.

Capuano (1-0) was lifted after the sac fly. The walk to McKenry loaded the bases, but lefty Scott Elbert came out of the bullpen and retired pinch hitter Matt Hague on a line drive to center fielder Matt Kemp.

Andre Ethier, who drove in the deciding run in each of the first two games of the series with a home run and RBI single, was hit in the back by the first pitch he saw from Karstens in the first inning after the Dodgers got a one-out single by Mark Ellis and a double by Kemp.

Juan Rivera drove in Ellis with a sacrifice fly, and the Dodgers made it 3-0 on RBI singles from James Loney and Juan Uribe. Loney's hit ended an 0-for-16 drought, his longest to start a season in his seven-year career.

McKenry, Pittsburgh's No. 8 hitter, hit a drive to center in the fifth for the Pirates' third homer in their first six games.

NOTES: The Dodgers are 60-23 against Pittsburgh since the 2002 season, which was the last time the Pirates won a season series from them. ... Dodgers LHP Ted Lilly is expected to come off the disabled list Saturday and make his season debut against San Diego after being sidelined with a neck problem. ... Dodgers leadoff hitter Dee Gordon, whose job is to hit the ball on the ground and use his speed, flied out his first three times up. In the second inning, he sent CF McCutchen to the warning track.

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