With the Dodgers ultimately winning 4-1 over the Pirates on Wednesday night, a key point in the game ended up not mattering too much, as Chad Billingsley exited early after just 77 pitches, as he was pinch hit for with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the sixth, with the Dodgers leading 2-1.
James Loney, who did not start with a left-hander on the mound, was called on to pinch hit, and after Pirates maanger Clint Hurdle countered with lefty Tony Watson, Loney softly popped out to third base in foul territory.
My instinct would have been to allow Billingsley to continue pitching, given that he theoretically could have pitched two more innings, but I can understand the need for more offense, as at that point the Dodgers had scored four total runs in nearly 14 innings in the last two days. In addition, the move burned Pittsburgh's only remaining left-handed pitcher with two, possibly three innings remaining in the game.
But it sounds like Billingsley wouldn't have pitched two more innings anyway, had he stayed in.
"I'm sure he wanted to stay in, but it's not like we're up 4-1. He's probably got one more inning, because I'm going to Kenley anyway [in the eighth]," Mattingly said after the game. "I have to try to put some runs on the board. It's a one-run game that I'd like to knock to three or four and feel a lot better."
The Dodgers ultimately got two more runs, just an inning later.
As for Billingsley, who liked the command of his fastball on Wednesday, that is now two starts in a row that he has excelled, and on the season has 15 strikeouts and two walks in 14 1/3 innings, while allowing one run.
"Some of the things that Rick [Honeycutt, pitching coach] talked about last year, him working on through the winter, it looks like it's paying off," Mattingly said.
Billingsley wanted to hit for himself in the sixth inning, but was understanding of the decision after the game. "It's his call," Billingsley said of Mattingly.
The Dodgers go for the sweep Thursday night, with Chris Capuano looking to rebound from his last start, which got derailed by a wild fifth inning in San Diego. Jeff Karstens takes the hill for the Pirates.