Billingsley’s effort goes to waste

Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- Two months of the season are complete and the Dodgers are a game under .500.

Rafael Furcal remains on the disabled list because of back problems and the team doesn’t know when he can play again. The lineup isn’t producing many runs, limited to two or fewer in six of their last nine games. And the back end of their bullpen has cost them two wins in the last four days, including Saturday, when setup man Jonathan Broxton blew a two-run lead in the eighth inning and put the Dodgers on course to drop a 3-2 decision to the New York Mets at Shea Stadium.

But General Manager Ned Colletti said he is encouraged by what he sees.

His team is 1-5 on this trip, which started in Chicago and ends today at Shea, but Colletti said he is pleased with the rotation, which has provided stellar recent performances from Chad Billingsley, Derek Lowe and Hiroki Kuroda.


Like Manager Joe Torre, Colletti was quick to note the lack of experience on the Dodgers’ roster.

“We’re playing with a really young club,” Colletti said. “We’ve been a pitch here or a pitch there of winning this game here. Both the Mets and the Cubs are good clubs. They’re veteran clubs, clubs with a lot of experience and a lot of guys with big resumes and a lot of know-how.

“You’re encouraged by that. Are the results what you want? Not yet. But have we been run off the field? Have we been embarrassed? Has it been such a dramatic difference in ability that we’re going, ‘Oh my God, how far away are we?’ Not at all.”

The competitiveness of the games -- four of the five losses on the trip are by two or fewer runs -- is a sign to Colletti that the young players are learning.


A notable sign of that Saturday was the performance of the 23-year old Billingsley, who pitched seven shutout innings and was on his way to earning his fifth win in his last seven starts until Broxton gave up a two-run home run to Carlos Beltran and a single to Fernando Tatis that resulted in the go-ahead run for the Mets.

Billingsley had to earn the zeros he put up on the board.

He walked David Wright and Beltran to start the fourth inning, but retired the next three batters.

He faced Wright in the fifth with two outs and runners on the corners, and forced an inning-ending groundout.

But the most serious threat Billingsley faced came in the seventh, when he once again had men on the corners, only this time with one out. He made Jose Reyes pop out in foul territory and ended the inning with a grueling a 13-pitch at-bat by Endy Chavez that resulted in a popup to short.

“It was a tough out, I’ll tell you that,” Billingsley said.

Colletti said that Billingsley didn’t demonstrate that kind of resiliency when losing his first four decisions of the season.

Pitching the way Billingsley did, Colletti said, should keep the Dodgers competitive. He said the Dodgers had to get Furcal back in the lineup and Andruw Jones back on track. Jones, who is recovering from knee surgery, was hitting .165 at the time he was hurt.


Colletti said he is exploring trade options for a utility player who could play in the middle of the infield while he waits for Furcal’s return.