This is the Danny Bautista the Diamondbacks had expected to see all along.
Bautista made the key offensive and defensive plays of the game Thursday as the D-Backs downed the Los Angeles Dodgers, 2-0, at Bank One Ballpark.
Arizona crept within 6 1/2 games of Florida in the wild card race.
Rookie left-hander Chris Capuano pitched seven innings for the victory. He dodged bullets when, with a man on second in the fifth inning, third baseman Shea Hillenbrand made a leaping stab of Alex Cora's liner and when Bautista, playing left field, robbed Adrian Beltre of a home run in the seventh inning.
“That was probably the biggest boost for me in the game,” Capuano said.
Bautista also had two doubles, one of which triggered Arizona's two-run seventh inning.
In his past 11 games, Bautista has gone 13-for-31 (.419) with five extra-base hits and 10 RBIs. That has raised his average from .259 to .279.
“That ball he hit to center field (a second-inning double) looked like a 2-iron,” manager Bob Brenly said. “That thing just kept accelerating.
“When Danny's seeing the ball good and putting a good swing on it like he is, that's the kind of line drives we're used to seeing from him.”
Bautista was the D-Backs’ opening-day right fielder and No. 5 hitter. But his lack of consistency and extra-base hits led the team to trade for Raul Mondesi in late July.
Mondesi is a free agent after the season and Bautista is signed for $4 million next year, making it quite possible he will be the first in line for right field in 2004.
“I've been seeing the ball a little bit better,” he said. “I'm just trying to hit it hard.
“The beginning of the year I didn't feel too comfortable. I've been working hard to find a rhythm. Sooner or later, you're going to get it.”
Said Brenly: “I think it was obvious early in the season there were some adjustment problems that he was going through. . . . It was probably about a month ago we really started to see that he was starting to get the bat through the zone the way we expected. And he's had as many good at-bats for us lately as anybody.”
Capuano (2-3) was a late replacement for Curt Schilling, who has a stiff neck. Capuano, under the weather the past few days, struck out three and did not issue a walk, allowing only three hits.
“To be quite honest with you, we didn't know what to expect tonight,” Brenly said. “But I thought he was spectacular. Real good command of all of his pitches. Real good mound presence. And he did what he had to do: put zeroes up there.”
Capuano escaped a two-on, no-out jam in the third and then settled into a rhythm, retiring 15 of the last 16 men he faced.
“I was just trying to stay under control,” Capuano said. “I wasn't trying to get too angry out there or too pumped up. Basically, pitching is aggression under control.”
Jose Valverde pitched the eighth inning and Matt Mantei worked the ninth for his 23rd save in 26 chances this season.
With the score 0-0 in the seventh, Bautista's one-out double — out of the reach of right fielder Shawn Green — sent Hillenbrand to third base.
After Odalis Perez intentionally walked pinch hitter Felix Jose, pinch hitter Matt Kata scored Hillenbrand with a sacrifice fly. A third straight pinch hitter, Carlos Baerga, singled to bring in Bautista.
Perez (12-11) was not charged with an earned run. In three starts against Arizona this season, he has a 0.39 ERA but a 1-1 record.