The Dodgers needed Chad Billingsley to pitch deep into Sunday's finale with Colorado to save the bullpen, and he obliged, pitching into the eighth inning. In fact, Billingsley only allowed hits in the first and seventh innings, but two of those hits were two-run home runs and the Rockies won 5-3.
The Dodgers had a good chance to tie or take the lead in the top of the eighth inning, with Matt Kemp facing Matt Belisle with one out and Justin Sellers on first base, down by a run. Kemp, who was six for 16 with two doubles and three home runs in his career off Belisle, hit what appeared to be a game-tying double down the left field line, but third baseman Chris Nelson had other ideas. Nelson made a tremendous diving stab of the hard smash, then threw out Kemp at first base.
The win snapped a major league record 17-game losing streak on Sundays for Colorado.
Billingsley allowed a two-run home run to Carlos Gonzalez in the first inning, but the Dodgers chipped away and by the fourth inning held a 3-2 lead. Billingsley retired 11 straight batters after the CarGo home run, and allowed only two walks heading into the seventh inning. With one out, Billingsley issued his third walk of the day, putting Jason Giambi on first base, then Seth Smith unloaded on a cutter, hitting it into the second deck in right field to give the Rockies a one-run lead.
After throwing 105 pitches through seven innings, Billingsley was asked to pitch the eighth as well. He walked Eric Young Jr. to open the inning, the fourth straight inning Billingsley walked a batter. A throwing error by Dioner Navarro on a sacrifice attempt helped prolong the inning, and Troy Tulowitzki delivered a sacrifice fly for an insurance run.
Hong-Chih Kuo relieved Billingsley with two outs and struck out Todd Helton to end the threat, giving Kuo four strikeouts in four batters faced over the last two days.
The Dodgers put a runner on in the ninth inning, and Don Mattingly decided to use Rod Barajas as a pinch hitter, trying to catch lightning in a bottle since Barajas is one of a select few on the team with power. However, rather than have Barajas pinch hit for Dioner Navarro, a bad hitter who had caught 21 innings in two days, Mattingly had Barajas hit for Jamey Carroll. I get trying to go for power, and in the grand scheme of things the effect is small, but willingly have Navarro and Barajas hit in the same inning while one of their best hitters sits is annoying.
Before the game, James Loney actually warmed up in the bullpen, on the off chance he would be needed in emergency relief, given the Dodgers' short bullpen today. That didn't happen, but Loney still put his stamp on the game.
Loney doubled home a run in the second inning, hit a line-drive home run to right field to open the fourth inning, then singled in the sixth and ninth innings. Loney has three home runs this season in 35 plate appearances at Coors Field, while he has just two home runs in 221 plate appearances at Dodger Stadium. It was Loney's second four-hit game of the season, and first since April 26.
Kevin Millwood pitched seven innings for the Rockies, who needed a boost themselves after pitching six relievers on Saturday. Millwood allowed three runs on seven hits, though just one of those hits came after the fourth inning. Millwood walked one and struck out four for his first win of the season.
The last time the Dodgers allowed five runs on just three hits was September 4, 2004 against St. Louis. Since 1919, the most runs allowed by the Dodgers while allowing three or fewer hits is six, scored by Pittsburgh on June 24, 1948.
The Dodgers head to St. Louis for a three-game series beginning Monday night. Nathan Eovaldi and Chris Carpenter start the opener.
WP - Kevin Millwood (1-1): 7 IP, 7 hits, 3 runs, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts
LP - Chad Billingsley (10-10): 7 2/3 IP, 3 hits, 5 runs (4 earned), 5 walks, 7 strikeouts
Sv - Rafael Betancourt (2): 1 IP, 1 hit, 1 strikeout