Yes, the Dodgers won tonight, 7-3 over the Diamondbacks in the first game of their six-game road trip. But sometimes it's best not to think of the battle, but of the war. Chad Billingsley got the win tonight, allowing two runs on three hits and four walks in his 5 1/3 innings, striking out seven. But he was pulled by Joe Torre with runners on second and third and one out in the sixth, despite:
- Having a 4-1 lead at the time
- Having thrown just 90 pitches tonight
- Having thrown just 90, 97, and 86 pitches in his last three starts
- Getting an extra day of rest this coming weekend, so that -- gulp -- Ramon Ortiz can start Friday in San Diego
On both the radio and television broadcasts of tonight's game, as Billingsley was walking off the field his streak of not pitching into the seventh inning -- now at 21 starts and counting -- was mentioned, again. From beat writers to bloggers to radio callers and hosts to fans in the seats, you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a conversation about Billingsley's mental makeup. Billingsley's arm can't have a bad game without thousands wanting to analyze what is going on inside his head.
Billingsley's last three starts before tonight all lasted six innings, and he pitched well enough to get into the seventh each time, but he was pinch hit for in each game. So talk of his streak of shame continues. Billingsley is soft-spoken and shy when giving interviews -- a stark contrast to the fire in his eyes when he handed Torre the ball tonight -- so he is often tabbed as lacking in confidence. This negative portrayal only gets amplified when he's not given the opportunity to prove people wrong. For instance, how can Billingsley overcome his reputation as a poor playoff pitcher when he gets left out of the playoff rotation? (Although he would have started Game 4 of the NLDS had the Cardinals earned the right to play that game.)
The narrative about Chad is one of the poor second half pitcher last season, not of his two solid years of performance prior to that. That narrative will never change if Billingsley is not given the opportunity to change it. If there was ever a time to let Billingsley work out of a tough spot -- three run lead, well rested arm, an extra day of rest pending -- this was it. Part of Billingsley pitching into the seventh is his manager giving him a chance.
Torre has stated on several occasions that he has confidence in Billingsley. It would be nice if he backs up those words with actions.
James Loney his an opposite field home run in the second inning. In 26 career games at Chase Field, Loney has seven home runs. By contrast, in 253 career games at Dodger Stadium he has 14 home runs. Loney also added an RBI single in the ninth inning, and is hitting .406/.450/.663 in his career in Arizona.
- Andre Ethier added three more hits, including two doubles. Twenty of his 40 career hits in his hometown of Phoenix are for extra bases.
WP - Chad Billingsley (3-2): 5 1/3 IP, 3 hits, 2 runs, 4 walks, 7 strikeouts
LP - Rodrigo Lopez (1-2): 7 IP, 7 hits, 4 runs, 5 walks, 3 strikeouts