On a day that looked like/the Dodgers would have another crummy ending, Matt Kemp made sure that fans went home happy, delivering a two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning off Ryan Franklin, giving the Dodgers a walk-off 2-1 win, avoiding a sweep, and snapping their five game losing streak.
It looked for a while that today would be the Chad Billingsley story, but after Billingsley left a scoreless tie after eight innings that story was about to have a sad ending. After retiring Colby Rasmus and Albert Pujols to begin the ninth inning, Jonathan Broxton allowed a double to Matt Holliday and, after an intentional walk to the red-hot Lance Berkman, an RBI bloop single to David Freese. An outstanding sliding catch by Aaron Miles in short right field ended the inning, and prevented a second run from scoring, setting the stage for the Dodger comeback.
Tony LaRussa opted for Trever Miller to open the bottom of the ninth inning against Andre Ethier, a wise choice since Ethier was hitting .190/.227/.238 against southpaws this season. Ethier, however, turned that around with a double down the right field line, which extended his hitting streak to 14 games. What happened next was a pair of decisions that both ended in the Dodgers' favor.
LaRussa called on his closer, Ryan Franklin, with Kemp due up. However, with first base open and the struggling duo of Juan Uribe and James Loney following Kemp, LaRussa opted to pitch to Kemp. Meanwhile, in the Dodger dugout, in a scene right out of the end of Major League 3: Back To The Minors, Kemp asked Don Mattingly if he should bunt to advance Ethier. Mattingly told Kemp, "No, I need you to drive in the run." Then, on the fifth pitch from Franklin, Kemp did just that, and for good measure drove in himself too.
Billingsley was simply outstanding today. After three straight days of finishing the game with a reliever taking one for the team, the Dodgers needed Billingsley to pitch deep into the game. Billingsley did just that, pitching eight scoreless innings while striking out 11. It was the seventh career game with at least 11 strikeouts for Billingsley.
St. Louis managed just two hits and two walks off Billingsley, with most of the damage being done by Holliday. The Cardinals' left fielder had a double, a single, and a walk off Billingsley. The only other Cardinal to reach base off Billingsley was his opposite number, Chris Carpenter, who walked in the third inning.
The Cardinals had two real scoring threats off Billingsley. In the second inning, after Holliday led off the inning with a double, Billingsley struck out the next three batters to end the threat. Then, in the eighth inning, Yadier Molina reached base on an error by Andre Ethier, and was sacrificed to third base, but Billingsley retired the next two batters.
Carpenter was nearly as good as Billingsley, pitching seven scoreless innings of his own. The Dodgers managed just five hits, all singles, off Carpenter, who struck out six.
The Dodgers open a four-game series Monday night with the Atlanta Braves at Dodger Stadium. Ted Lilly faces Tim Hudson in the opener.
WP - Jonathan Broxton (1-0): 1 IP, 2 hits, 1 run, 1 walk, 1 strikeout
LP - Ryan Franklin (0-2): 0 IP, 1 hit, 1 run