The Dodgers had such a good game on Tuesday night in their 11-0 win over the Pirates that Chad Billingsley's excellent outing was overshadowed by another chapter in the Luis Cruz story.
Billingsley was superb, pitching eight scoreless innings with one walk and five strikeouts. Beareded Billingsley is now 5-0 since returning from the disabled list, the first time in his career that he has won five consecutive starts.
But since winning is old hat for Billingsley now - he has a 1.56 ERA in his last five starts, with six walks and 23 strikeouts - let's focus on the 28-year old journeyman who has made quite an impact on the Dodgers' season.
Necessity is the mother of invention, but it might be time to scour the farm for players with nearly 5,000 minor league plate appearances. After all, Cruz came to the plate 4,891 times in the minor leagues, and look at him. He tied a career high with three hits on Tuesday, and drove in three more runs, continuing his Cinderella run with the Dodgers.
The Dodgers scratched out a run in the third inning, courtesy of a single by Cruz, a walk by A.J. Ellis, a sacrifice by Billingsley, and grounder by Shane Victorino.
In the fourth inning, the Dodgers added another run, thanks to four balls that weren't hit out of the infield. Matt Kemp scorched a ball off third baseman Pedro Alvarez for an infield single. Andre Ethier then hit with a slow grounder, and second baseman Neil Walker dropped the ball while tagging Kemp, allowing both runners to be safe. Hanley Ramirez followed with a 40-foot grounder up the third base line for a single to load the bases. James Loney grounded out to first base to score Kemp.
But Cruz then hit the ball to the outfield for a single that scored two runs and gave the Dodgers a 4-0 lead.
Cruz added another RBI single in the sixth. The Dodgers rallied for five more runs in the ninth which allowed Cruz to get another at-bat, and he hit a line drive but this one was caught, by first baseman Garrett Jones.
On the season, Cruz is hitting .371/.425/.486 with runners in scoring position. Cruz, in just 33 games with the Dodgers, has 22 runs batted in. Manny Ramirez in 2008, the hottest hitter the world has ever known, had 29 RBI in his first 33 games as a Dodger. That I actually looked that up without a hint of irony shows how good Cruz has been.
Cruz on the season is hitting .270/.309/.417. He has played shortstop and third base, and tonight was his second start at second base this season. Will Cruz continue his production going forward? I don't know, but even if the answer is "probably not," I don't care.
What Cruz has done is taken us on a fantastic ride, and if anyone ever asks why career minor leaguers continue to toil on the farm, point to Luis Cruz and his rapidly elongating moment in the sun.
Not To Be Forgotten
Lost in the Cruz and Billingsley hoopla were two more good games for Kemp and Ramirez. Kemp was 2-for-5 with his fifth multi-hit game in his last six games, and Ramirez was 3-for-5 with a double, two runs scored, and two RBI. Ramirez is now hitting .297/.369/.419 as a Dodger with 20 RBI in 19 games, a ratio that impress even Cruz.
Clayton Kershaw looks for his fourth straight win in the third game of the series on Wednesday night, as the Dodgers look for their ninth straight win over the Pirates. Deadline acquisition Wandy Rodriguez starts for the Pirates, his fourth start since joining Pittsburgh.
Home Runs: none
WP - Chad Billingsley (9-9): 8 IP, 5 hits, 1 walk, 5 strikeouts
LP - Kevin Correia (9-7): 6 IP, 7 hits, 6 runs (5 earned), 1 walk, 3 strikeouts