Already playing without injured MVP candidate Matt Kemp, the offensively challenged Los Angeles Dodgers could be in for an even rockier road ahead with Andre Ethier sidelined.
They may not need a whole lot of support with Chris Capuano on the hill against his former team.
Capuano looks to stay unbeaten at home and the Dodgers try to avoid being shut out for a fourth straight game Thursday night in the opener of a four-game set with the New York Mets.
Los Angeles (43-33) averaged 4.4 runs over its first 50 games but has plated just 3.2 per contest in going 11-15 since Kemp began his second DL stint May 31. The Dodgers, who were limited to 13 runs during their 1-8 road trip, didn't score once in San Francisco, and the Giants pulled even atop the division with Wednesday's 3-0 win.
Los Angeles has never been blanked in four straight.
Snapping a 30-inning scoreless drought could prove all the more difficult with Ethier out. The right fielder was removed from Wednesday's loss after straining his left oblique, and could land on the disabled list after an MRI Thursday.
"Getting shut out three days in a row hurts a lot more than this," Ethier said.
With its offense doing next to nothing, Los Angeles could surely use another gem from Capuano (9-2, 2.60 ERA). After going 11-12 with a 4.55 ERA last year with the Mets, Capuano has taken things to another level in his first season with the Dodgers.
"Cappy's been amazing, the way he's been throwing the ball - and it started in spring training," batterymate A.J. Ellis said. "He has a lot more velocity on his fastball. And when he has that, it makes all his off-speed stuff better."
Capuano was terrific again Saturday, allowing one run, seven hits and no walks over seven innings of a 3-1 road victory over the Angels.
"He's pretty much been like that almost every time out," manager Don Mattingly told the team's official website. " ... We thought it would be a good addition, but I'm not quite sure I thought he'd be like this. We'll just keep riding it."
The left-hander has been especially good at Chavez Ravine, where he's compiled a 1.57 ERA and a 5-0 record over seven starts. He's allowed two runs or fewer in each of those outings while striking out 46 in as many innings.
Facing his former team for the first time since leaving via free agency, Capuano will try for his first win over the Mets. He's defeated every other NL club at least once but went 0-4 with a 6.35 ERA in five career starts against New York (40-36) while with Milwaukee from 2004-07.
Capuano will be facing an offense that scored more runs in its latest game than his team put up on its road trip. The Mets snapped a four-game skid by beating the Cubs 17-1 on Wednesday, getting two homers from Daniel Murphy, a three-run shot from Ike Davis and a grand slam from Scott Hairston.
"We haven't had a lot of days were we had multiple guys in the lineup come up big," manager Terry Collins said. "We kind of thought going into spring training we would have more of those. Hopefully it's something that continues."
The Mets now turn to Chris Young, who's gone 1-1 with a 3.42 ERA over four starts since debuting earlier this month. He threw six scoreless innings before offering up a three-run homer in the seventh of Saturday's 4-3 loss to the Yankees.
Young is 1-3 with a 6.23 ERA over his last five starts against the Dodgers, though he hasn't faced them since 2009. He surely won't be upset about missing Ethier, who's gone 12 for 29 with six homers in their matchups - the most Young has allowed to any player.