Billingsley Strikes Back, Pitches Dodgers Into First Place

Chad Billingsley pitched seven innings for the second straight start.

And on the 48th day, there was first place.  Chad Billingsley is making a habit of pitching seven innings now, and the Dodgers rode his strong outing to a 4-1 win over the Tigers in the series opener at Dodger Stadium on Empire Strikes Back Night, pulling the Dodgers into a tie with San Diego for first place in the National League West for the first time this season.

Back on April 24, Tony Jackson of ESPN Los Angeles went out on a limb and surmised the following:

Torre won't say that Chad Billingsley's (1-0, 7.07) start against the Nationals on Sunday is critical to the right-hander's keeping his spot in the rotation, but it is getting increasingly difficult to believe that the Dodgers will stick with Billingsley much longer if he doesn't find some level of consistency.

The reason Torre wouldn't say anything about taking Billingsley out of the rotation then is because it would have been foolish, and  Billingsley's last six starts (4-2, 2.39 ERA, 14 walks, 30 strikeouts in 37 2/3 innings) have proven why.

Billingsley allowed just six baserunners and one run in his seven innings, and the two doubles he gave up would have been caught if an ambulatory human was playing left field tonight.  Manny Ramirez under normal circumstances barely fits the bill, but with a bad toe he is immobile out there.  Austin Jackson hit a pop fly to left field that should have been caught in the first, but Manny and his bad toe took forever to get there.  A grounder and a flyout plated Jackson with the Tigers' only run.  The other double was a high fly ball to the warning track by Brandon Inge in the fourth inning, but Ramirez couldn't make the simplest of plays.  Yes, Manny's bat is a needed addition to the lineup.  But he simply shouldn't be in the field right now.  Give him two more days off this weekend, coupled with Monday, and have a well-rested Manny ready for the road trip on Tuesday.

At the start of the game, Dontrelle Willis looked like the D-Train of old, allowing grounder after grounder in the first three scoreless innings.  Then, in the fourth, he simply lost his control.  After a two out single, Willis walked the bases loaded then hit Nick Green in the foot for a painful way to get his first Dodger RBI.  Two more runs in the fifth gave the Dodgers a cushion they never relinquished.

Notes

  • Reed Johnson, put on this planet to hit left-handed pitching, had three hits, including a double and a walk tonight against southpaws Willis and Brad Thomas.
  • After just one save (in three opportunities) in the first 28 games of the season, Jonathan Broxton has been making up for lost time, picking up his eighth save in the last 14 games tonight.  On the season, Broxton has two walks and 27 strikeouts in 17 2/3 innings.
  • Ken Gurnick of MLB.com reported that Clayton Kershaw will start on Tuesday in Wrigley Field, meaning the fifth starter will be skipped with Monday's off day.
  • ElyMania hits national television tomorrow night, as John Ely faces Armando Galarraga on Fox at the unusual start time of 4:10pm.

WP - Chad Billingsley (5-2):  7 IP, 4 hits, 1 run, 2 walks, 5 strikeouts

LP - Dontrelle Willis (1-2):  5 1/3 IP, 6 hits, 4 runs, 3 walks, 2 strikeouts

Sv - Jonathan Broxton (9):  1 IP, 3 strikeouts

Box Score

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