A beautiful beginning for the Dodgers ended up with an ugly, frustrating loss, as the Nationals pushed across a run to win in the ninth inning, 5-4. Missed opportunities both in the field and at the plate led to the loss, and the Orlando Hudson even got hurt, playing in his first game in four days.
A hanging curve by ended the Chad Billingsley feel-good story of the night, as Ryan Zimmerman hit a three-run, game-tying home run to break up Billingsley's no-hitter. Billingsley was electric tonight, finishing with nine strikeouts, five of them looking, made all the more memorable by the emphatic calls by home plate umpire Tom Hallion. Billingsley did walk four, including two in the sixth before Zimmerman's tying blast, but overall he looked great. He had good command of his fastball, and outside of that one pitch to Zimmerman, Billingsley pitched a gem.
A tied game in the later innings figured to favor the Dodgers, with their superior bullpen, but the eighth inning is where it started to head south for the Dodgers. With Cristian Guzman on first base and nobody out, George Sherrill induced a pop-up to left centerfield. The ball should have easily been caught by Matt Kemp, but Kemp and Manny got confused and the ball dropped between them. One out later, Elijah Dukes hit an easy double play ball up the middle. All Hudson had to do was step on second and through to first to end the inning, but O-Dog rushed the throw and threw wildly to first. As James Loney came off the bag to retrieve the errant throw, Guzman scampered home from second (hat tip to El Lay Dave) with the go-ahead run.
Hudson led off the ninth with an infield single, but tripped over Dunn as he crossed first base. Hudson fell to the ground, hard, and had to leave the game. Post-game reports said Hudson jammed his left wrist, and is day to day. The Dodgers loaded the bases with nobody out, and scored the tying run when Christian Guzman threw wild to home plate on a grounder by Ronnie Belliard.
The game was now tied, the bases were still loaded, and the meat of the lineup was due up. All the stars seemed aligned to getting George Sherrill his first win as a Dodger, which would have made him the club-record 22nd Dodger to get a win this season. However, Andre Ethier struck out, Manny grounded out, and the birthday boy Matt Kemp lined out to end the inning and the threat. Ethier, Ramirez, and Kemp combined for no hits in 12 at-bats, with three walks on the night.
James McDonald came in to pitch the ninth inning, and was greeted by a leadoff single by Justin Maxwell. A sacrifice and an all-too-easy steal of third base led to a precarious situation. Jorge Padilla walked, then Pete Orr lifted a flyball to medium-deep right field. It looked to be a sure game-ending sacrifice fly anyway, especially with Ethier retreating on the ball, but it seemed fitting with all the late sloppiness that the ball bounced off Ethier's glove for an error, and a Dodger loss.
Despite the tough loss, Billingsley's outing was encouraging. That seems weird to say in an outing when Billingsley's went up from 4.05 to 4.07, but he was dealing. He's close to being back, which is good news. A weird night deserves a weird stat: Billingsley is the 15th LA Dodger ever to give up three or more runs while giving up one or less hits.
Vicente Padilla faces J.D. Martin tomorrow night in the series finale.
WP - Saul Rivera (1-3): 2 batters, 2 outs
LP - James McDonald (5-5): 0.1 IP, 1 hit, 1 run, 1 walk