Chad Billingsley had a successful return from the disabled list on Monday in St. Louis, allowing one run in six innings in a win that snapped a personal five-start losing streak. He looks for his second straight win on Saturday afternoon.
One reason for Billingsley's relative struggles this season has been hitters teeing off with a three-ball count against him. It's not earth shattering to note that a baseball truism is that getting ahead in the count is essential in the pitcher vs. batter matchup.
Since all walks happen with a three-ball count, the on-base percentage is understandably quite high in this situation. National League hitters with a three-ball count this season are hitting .246/.562/.411.
Billingsley has had 92 three-ball counts this season, not a particularly large amount as both Aaron Harang (116) and Clayton Kershaw (115) have had more. But batters are taking uncommon advantage of these situations against Billingsley, hitting .386/.620/.596.
The batting average on balls in play for those plate appearances is a whopping .500 against Billingsley. The line drive rate for Billingsley isn't known for this split, but it is well above the National League BABIP of .310 with three balls, higher than the NL BABIP in all plate appearances of .299.
Billingsley has a 3.45 career ERA at AT&T Park in 14 games, including 11 starts, with 61 strikeouts and 18 unintentional walks in 70 1/3 innings. But his record is just 2-4, and his last win at AT&T Park came in 2007. In his last 10 starts in San Francisco, Billingsley has seven quality starts but no wins, and the Dodgers are just 2-8 in those games. The Dodgers have lost Billingsley's last five starts at AT&T Park, thanks in part to scoring five total runs in those games.
Barry Zito makes his third start of the season against the Dodgers, after throwing a quality start in each of the first two outings and a 1-1 record. After having as many walks (20) as strikeouts (20) in May, and having more walks (19) than strikeouts (18) in June, Zito has made a turnaround of sorts in July.
Zito has a 3.32 ERA in July for the Giants, thanks in part to 14 strikeouts against just five walks in his three starts, and he has pitched seven innings in each of his last two outings.
The Dodgers shook up their lineup a bit, moving Mark Ellis into the leadoff spot, the first time this season he has started at any other spot than second in the batting order. Andre Ethier moves from cleanup to batting second, the first time he has batted second since October 2, 2010, with Hanley Ramirez moving up one spot to cleanup.
Marco Scutaro, acquired from the Colorado Rockies on Friday, starts at third base for the Giants on Saturday. Pablo Sandoval was placed on the disabled list and Emmanuel Burriss was designated for assignment, with Aubrey Huff activated before Saturday's game.
Game Time: 1:05 p.m.