Chad Billingsley had a successful return from the disabled list, and his middle infield provided the offensive support as the Dodgers topped the St. Louis Cardinals 5-3 Monday night for their fifth straight win. Shortstop Luis Cruz drove in three of the five runs with a home run, and second baseman Mark Ellis knocked home the other two with a double in the seventh inning, providing some much needed insurance.
Billingsley snapped a career-worst five-start losing streak by pitching six strong innings allowing just one run.
Down 1-0 in the second, the Dodgers took advantage of Cardinal hospitality in the second inning, as Andre Ethier reached base on an error by Lance Berkman at first and Adam Kennedy blooped a single to shallow left off the glove of shortstop Rafael Furcal. Cruz followed with a fly ball to left just out of the reach of Matt Holliday and over the wall for a three-run home run.
The Dodgers have homered in five straight games, their longest streak of the year and their longest since homering in eight straight games last season from September 15-23.
Cruz has knocked in at least one run in four straight games for the second time in his 16 games as a Dodger. So far this season, the only other Dodgers to have a streak of four or more games with an RBI are Andre Ethier (four times, including one streak of five games) and Matt Kemp (twice, including one streak of five games).
Holliday whacked a double off the base of the center field wall with one out in the third inning but he was stranded at third base. Outside of a passed ball putting a runner into scoring position in the sixth inning, that was the last real threat against Billingsley, who was sharp in his return.
Billingsley struck out four and walked one in his six innings, and in his last three starts has 17 strikeouts against just one walk.
Jamey Wright pitched a scoreless seventh inning on just nine pitches, which earned him a return trip to the mound in the eighth. But after allowing a leadoff single to John Jay, Wright was removed in favor of Ronald Belisario. One out later, Carlos Beltran hit his 22nd home run of the season, cutting the Dodgers' lead to 5-3.
It continued a nightmare stretch for Belisario that has seen him allow eight runs in his last eight outings.
Kenley Jansen pitched a perfect ninth inning for his 19th save of the season.
Loney On The Mound
Had Sunday's game in New York lasted just one more inning, into the 13th, James Loney would have pitched for the first time in a major league game. Had the game remained tied, manager Don Mattingly said he would have used Chris Capuano in the outfield and moved Andre Ethier to first base with Loney on the mound, as the Dodgers were out of position players.
"I don't think he was thinking that far ahead, but it was definitely in my head," said Mattingly, per Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. "He would have been the pitcher. He would have got his shot."
Loney, who pitched in high school, warmed up in the bullpen before a game at Coors Field last season on August 21. Loney went 4-for-4 at the plate on that day and hit .388/.438/.679 over his final 35 games of the season, with 16 doubles, seven home runs, and 28 RBI.
- The Dodgers have beaten the Cardinals eight straight times, matching their longest winning streak over St. Louis since moving to Los Angeles, which was previously set from July 24, 1975 to May 12, 1976.
- Andre Ethier hit his 25th double of the season on Monday, becoming the ninth Dodger ever with at least six seasons of 25 doubles or more. He is five doubles shy of becoming the first Dodger ever with six straight years of 30 or more doubles.
- Matt Kemp was 1-for-4 to expand his hitting streak to six games, but his streak of multi-hit games was snapped at four games. Kemp is hitting .366/.395/.585 in nine games since returning from the disabled list.
- Tony Gwynn Jr. batted for Billingsley in the seventh inning and singled and scored. Gwynn is 8-for-16 as a pinch hitter this season
Home Runs: Luis Cruz (2); Carlos Beltran (22)
WP - Chad Billingsley (5-9): 6 IP, 7 hits, 1 run, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts
LP - Joe Kelly (1-3): 6 IP, 4 hits, 3 runs (2 earned), 3 walks, 1 strikeout
Sv - Kenley Jansen (19): 1 IP, 2 strikeouts