LOS ANGELES -- Chris Capuano described it as a thin line, the difference between playing tight and playing loose.
It's a line that the expectation-laden Los Angeles Dodgers have toed with increasing wobbliness this season, as a three-game losing streak became six, then became eight.
Knuckles got whiter, uniforms felt more constricting.
Now, though, these Dodgers have won two straight, and know what it's like to kick back and relax.
Behind a strong rebound performance from Capuano, the Dodgers broke open a close game with a three-run seventh inning and won their second straight over the visiting Miami Marlins with a 5-3 victory on Sunday afternoon at Dodger Stadium.
"I'm not exactly sure what the difference is, but we've just been executing a little bit better when we need to," said Capuano, who picked up his first win of the year. "It seems like we'd always make a few mistakes and there - whether that was pitching or on the bases or fielding - so it's just been a little tighter execution-wise. I don't want to say tighter...looser in the other way. It's always a fine line you're looking at with being loose and being focused."
The Dodgers had lost eight straight before Saturday, largely because of a lack of timely hitting and little production from their expensive stars.
That changed over the weekend in the slump-busting win on Saturday -- Andre Ethier went 4-for-4, and Hyun-Jin Ryu picked up his fourth victory -- and the reversal of fortune continued on Sunday.
Matt Kemp had two hits, including No. 1,000 for his career, and Carl Crawford had two hits, including a crucial RBI single in the seventh inning to spark a three-run inning.
"Matt just kind of keeps getting them, kind of what we're talking about with wins," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "He's starting to get his hits, and getting a little warmer getting into the season, doing what we thought he'd do."
But the Dodgers also received production from lightly heralded Scott Van Slyke, making his first start of the season in place of the injured Adrian Gonzalez, and from Nick Punto. Van Slyke went 2-for-4 with a home run and two RBIs, and Punto walked, had a single, a sacrifice fly, a walk and an RBI.
Los Angeles' 11 hits -- all but one player in the lineup had a hit -- was enough to support a bounce-back effort by Capuano. One start removed from a four-inning, five-run, eight-hit debacle in a loss to Arizona, Capuano stifled the Marlins through 6 1/3 innings, allowing just five hits and one run. Miami managed just three hits in the first five innings before getting a Justin Ruggiano one-out home run in the sixth.
"I was basically just not trying to dissect a hitter's weakness as much as what pitches do I execute well, and let's go with that first and foremost," Capuano said. "Just kind of adjust to what you're seeing as opposed to - sometimes when you're struggling, you watch so much video, try to get really prepared for these guys coming up, and it kind of paralyzes you. You get a bit mechanical and you think too much."
Miami's Tom Koehler, making just his second career start, allowed seven hits and two runs in five innings. Koehler was fantastic out of the bullpen for the Marlins, holding opponents to a .134 batting average, but entered the game on a slide, having allowed four runs in his last five innings before Sunday.
"He was aggressive and he threw some nice pitches and really kept us in the game," Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. "For his first start this season, I thought he did a nice job. He has some command of off-speed pitches and also threw 95, too, which helps."
The Dodgers, though, touched up relievers Jon Rauch and Mike Dunn in a big seventh inning. Crawford singled home Punto, Ethier drove in Juan Uribe with a sacrifice fly, and Van Slyke brought in Crawford with an RBI single.
"It's the same stuff we've talked about all year," Redmond said. "We're pitching on pins and needles, 2-1 games, trying to hold them down just to give ourselves a chance to make a rally. That's tough. It's tough on your bullpen and tough on your offense."
Los Angeles opened the scoring in the second inning on Van Slyke's home run to deep center, and increased the lead to 2-0 with Punto's sacrifice fly to score Skip Schumaker in the fourth inning.
Brandon League allowed two runs and three hits in the ninth inning but did enough to pick up the save and put a smile - however briefly - on Mattingly's face.
"That's two, basically," Mattingly said. "What's that movie? If you win one, and one more it's a win streak? It's two. It gives us a little momentum going, and winning a series, we talk about it all the time - it doesn't sound like much once you've lost eight in a row, but...it's something. It's something that's moving in the right direction."
NOTES: Gonzalez missed his fourth game since suffering a neck strain on May 1. He had two hits, but aggravated the injury on Saturday night. ... Marlins outfielder Austin Kearns was moved from the bereavement list to the restricted list on Sunday. Kearns, who already missed time this season with an irregular heartbeat, was placed on the bereavement list for a personal matter and remains off the 40-man roster. ... Van Slyke was hitting .397 with nine home runs and 30 RBIs in 34 games at Triple-A Albuquerque before being called up last Wednesday. ... Kemp extended his hitting streak to 11 games with two hits on Sunday afternoon and became the third-fastest Dodger to reach the 1,000-hit plateau (3,400 at-bats).