By NICOLINO DIBENEDETTO
(AP) -- The Los Angeles Dodgers tend to have little trouble with the San Diego Padres and giving the ball to Chris Capuano is likely to keep it that way for now.
Capuano goes for his best start to a season in his eight-year career Wednesday night when the Dodgers visit the Padres for the opener of this two-game set.
Los Angeles (24-12) has won 16 of the last 19 meetings with San Diego (13-24), including a 7-3 record at Petco Park.
That dominance has continued in 2012 with the Dodgers winning six of seven meetings. They took three of four in their season-opening series at San Diego.
Starting Capuano (5-0, 2.06) would seem to be a good way to continue that success.
The left-hander is off to his best start since winning his first five decisions over seven starts with Milwaukee in 2007. However, he went 0-10 with a 5.20 ERA in his final 18 starts that season and finished 5-12 - two of the losses coming in relief.
"That's a long time ago. It's hard to remember back that far," Capuano said.
It's been even longer since he put together a longer streak of winning decisions, going 7-0 over nine starts from June 19-July 31, 2005.
Capuano's current run has been even more impressive recently. He's won four straight starts behind a 0.65 ERA while striking out 24 in 27 2-3 innings and holding opponents to a .167 average.
"We expected that we were going to get a guy with a lot of different looks and a veteran guy who was going to give you innings and keep you in the game," manager Don Mattingly said. "He's a tough guy to scout. He's got so many different pitches, he's really hard to prepare for because you never quite know what you're going to get.
"He's been great. He's 5-0 and has given up hardly any runs. I can't say I expected that, but I always knew he had great stuff."
Capuano's stuff was on display again Friday, when he yielded one run and four hits in seven innings of a 7-3 win over Colorado. However, he may have a tougher time in Petco, where he's 0-2 with a 7.53 ERA in three starts.
He struggled there again April 7, allowing four runs and five walks in 4 2-3 innings of a 6-5 win in 11.
Capuano and the Dodgers are not afforded the luxury of having Matt Kemp in the lineup this time, leaving them without their top offensive threat.
Kemp went on the disabled list with a hamstring injury Monday, and Los Angeles appeared to miss him in Tuesday's 5-1 loss to Arizona which snapped a five-game winning streak.
Andre Ethier is a likely candidate to pick up the slack in Kemp's absence. He's hitting .448 with two homers and five RBIs in eight games, and that may continue against the Padres.
Ethier has a .357 average with six home runs and 26 RBIs in the last 24 matchups, but he's just 3 for 21 against Clayton Richard, Wednesday's scheduled starter.
Richard (1-5, 5.32) is 5-1 with a 2.63 ERA in nine career starts against the Dodgers, winning all three decisions at home with a 1.78 ERA in five starts. That includes allowing two unearned runs in seven innings of an 8-4 win April 8.
He's 0-5 with a 6.32 ERA in six starts since - all ending in San Diego defeats.
The Padres finished a five-game road trip with a 6-1 victory at Washington on Tuesday, scoring four runs in four innings against Stephen Strasburg.
Updated May 16, 2012