Nothing fishy about effort by Billingsley
MIAMI -- Chad Billingsley waited the entire month for this kind of performance.
There was no explaining to do Wednesday night about why this one got away or what caused him to run up his pitch count.
Billingsley gave up only one run and three hits over a season-high seven innings in the Dodgers’ 13-1 victory over the Florida Marlins, earning his first win and putting everything together at a time when the team seems to be doing the same.
The Dodgers won their fifth consecutive game by pounding 15 hits, including five by Rafael Furcal, and scoring as many runs as they did over the five games of their trip two weeks ago to Atlanta and Cincinnati, when their offense was at its productive nadir.
Russell Martin hit his third home run and rookie Blake DeWitt drove in four runs in the victory, which pushed the Dodgers over .500 for the first time since April 7 and kept them within 5 1/2 games of National League West leader Arizona.
“We’ve got to forget about April,” Furcal said. “April is gone already.”
If anyone had to forget about the past and embrace the future, it was Billingsley, who struck out 32 batters in 20 2/3 innings over his first six games but had a 6.53 earned-run average.
He began the game Wednesday with an 18.92 ERA in the fifth inning and encountered trouble again at that stage, as he walked pitcher Scott Olsen and Hanley Ramirez to load the bases with one out. But Billingsley (1-4) limited the damage to a run, striking out cleanup hitter Jorge Cantu to end the inning with the Dodgers holding a 4-1 lead.
“I just kept thinking over and over, ‘Stay to what you have, don’t try to do too much, trust yourself, you’ll get out of this,’ ” Billingsley said.
Billingsley faced the minimum number of batters over the next two innings and left with eight strikeouts.
“The fact that he was able to straighten it out,” Manager Joe Torre said of the fifth inning, “and pitching the sixth and seventh, that’s probably more impressive than if he didn’t get in trouble at all.”
Torre himself seemed to come closer to finding stability on this day, fielding the same lineup as he did the previous day for the first time this season.
“Ah-ha, finally,” the manager said when this was pointed out to him. But, he quickly added, “It won’t be the same tomorrow.”
With the Dodgers facing right-hander Burke Badenhop today, Torre said he wanted left-handed pinch-hitting specialist Mark Sweeney to start so he could get extra at-bats. Sweeney is two for 17.
But Martin will start again at catcher, as the two innings the workhorse played at third base was enough for Torre to classify the night as a “day off.”
Torre said he kept Martin in the game as an infielder when he put backup Gary Bennett behind the plate because he had no other catchers available.
Martin put the Dodgers on the board with a home run in the second inning and Matt Kemp increased the margin to 3-0 in the third with a two-run single to left field. Martin, who was two for two with three runs, is hitting .500 (14 for 28) over his last eight games.
A single by Jeff Kent in the fifth inning drove in Kemp, but the real damage came late in the game, as the Dodgers scored four runs in the seventh and five in the eighth. The scoring was capped by a bases-clearing triple by DeWitt.
“We had some struggles early on,” Martin said, “but it feels we’re starting to come together.”