It's a happy return for L.A.


Chad Billingsley said he was certain his leg would hold up on the mound Tuesday.

It did.

But what about on the basepaths?

That question was also answered in the Dodgers' 7-3 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals, when Billingsley singled to right-center in the fourth inning to drive in his team's first run of the game.

That run from the batter's box at Dodger Stadium to first base was responsible for Billingsley straining his left hamstring 11 days earlier and missing his scheduled start in San Francisco last week.

"I was kind of taking it easy on the bases," said Billingsley, adding that first base coach Mariano Duncan and third base coach Larry Bowa motioned for him to do so.

Billingsley didn't hold back when throwing the ball, earning a victory by holding the Cardinals to two runs and three hits over six innings and preserving the Dodgers' 4 1/2 -game lead over the Colorado Rockies in the National League West. The victory ended a season-long, four-game home losing streak.

"The win was important, obviously, but for him to go out without any problems, that was huge," Manager Joe Torre said.

The strong start came on a day when Torre conceded that Hiroki Kuroda probably would go on the disabled list in the coming days and Clayton Kershaw, who is scheduled to start today, walked into the Dodgers' clubhouse with flu-like symptoms.

Billingsley delivered the kind of performance he failed to deliver in St. Louis on July 28, when he matched Adam Wainwright by pitching five scoreless innings, only to implode in a six-run sixth inning.

The 25-year-old right-hander retired 15 of the 16 batters he faced in the first five innings and again encountered trouble in the sixth.

Again, he buckled.

Only this time, he didn't fold.

Billingsley started the inning by plunking Jason LaRue and surrendering a double to pinch-hitter Joe Thurston. He forced Skip Schumaker to hit into a run-scoring groundout, then served up a run-scoring single to Brendan Ryan.

But with the Dodgers' lead down to 5-2, Billingsley got Albert Pujols to ground into an inning-ending double play.

"I was up 5-0, trying to get outs," Billingsley said.

Billingsley wasn't the only player to make a comeback on this night.

Closer Jonathan Broxton, who blew three of his previous five save opportunities, converted a four-out save.

"I've had a rough stretch," he said. "Hopefully, I'm out of it."

Broxton inherited a 6-3 lead with a man on first, two out and Pujols at the plate.

He got Pujols to ground out to third.

"Just go after him hard," Broxton said he recalled thinking in that pivotal at-bat.

The game also marked the rebirth of the Dodgers' offense, which was shut down the previous night by Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter.

The Dodgers collected 14 hits, with Andre Ethier and Orlando Hudson collected three each. Ethier was three for four with a double, a triple, a run, a run batted in and a walk.

Hudson recovered from a hitless night on Monday to go three for four with a run and run batted in.

The Dodgers scored two runs in the fourth and three in the fifth.

The Cardinals closed to within two runs, 5-3, in the seventh when James McDonald gave up a single to Ryan Ludwick, who scored when George Sherrill served up a hit to Khalil Greene.

But the Dodgers put the game out of reach in the bottom of the inning when James Loney walked and scored from first on a double to left by Russell Martin. Loney was safe by the closest of margins, as his hand slipped under LaRue's tag at the plate.


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