If Clayton Kershaw needs any advice on how to deal with a poor start, he can turn to tonight's starter, Chad Billingsley, who has turned in two solid performances after allowing seven runs himself in Cincinnati. However, there is one stat regarding Billingsley I would like to retire. In tonight's broadcast, as has been the case in each of his starts this season, you will probably hear that Billingsley has not recorded an out in the seventh inning since last July 5.
I hated that game. I was driving back home after spending the otherwise great holiday weekend in San Diego. Friday was the return of Manny Ramirez, Saturday was fireworks, and both days included trips to Hodad's in Ocean Beach for one of the best burgers on the planet. Billingsley was on top of the world back then, as he was 9-4 with a 3.12 ERA, cruising to his 10th win up 6-1 entering the ninth inning. Earlier in the day, he was named to his first All-Star team. Billingsley gave up a home run and a double to start the ninth, but it wasn't a big deal. He wouldn't get a complete game, but Jonathan Broxton came in to close out the sure victory. Only this was toe injury Broxton, not his usual dominant self. Before we knew it, the game was tied and the game thread was in full meltdown mode. If you ask me, it was those stupid red caps every team wore all weekend.
Since then, Billingsley has made 19 starts, and is 5-8 with a 5.20 ERA (with a FIP of roughly 4.02). He has pitched six innings in 10 of those starts, but never more than that, averaging 5.28 innings during that span. In Billingsley's last two starts, he would have pitched into the seventh inning were he not pinch hit for. On April 25th in Washington, the Dodgers trailed Scott Olsen 1-0 in the top of the seventh, and the Dodgers needed to score so Billingsley was pulled, despite joking to Joe Torre that he had the best at-bats that day. In his last start, Billingsley was at 97 pitches through six, but was lifted for pinch hitter Ronnie Belliard with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the inning. The Dodgers were leading 5-2 at the time, but after losing five straight games, Torre wanted to try and break the game wide open, and it's hard to blame him.
So the Billingsley streak of not getting an out in the seventh inning could have been snapped in either of his last two starts, but it wasn't, so we still have to hear about it. Tonight, it would be nice if Billingsley doesn't need to be lifted in the bottom of the sixth. Then again, such a move did lead to the Bobbleslam...