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Winning streak comes to an end as Ted Lilly outduels Chad Billingsley

Instead of pointing a finger of blame at the umpires, Juan Pierre pointed one back at himself and chuckled.

Instead of bemoaning his misfortune, Chad Billingsley heaped praise on the opposing pitcher.

Instead of characterizing Hiroki Kuroda’s return to the Dodgers’ rotation on Monday as a necessity, Manager Joe Torre said it was something that would “make us deeper” and “give us some options.”

The clubhouse serenity of a team that sits atop the baseball world can’t be disrupted by a single defeat, Manny or no Manny.

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The Dodgers’ 2-1 loss to the Chicago Cubs on Friday was the first of their trip, which started with a three-game sweep of Colorado and a series-opening victory at Wrigley Field. They’re still 18 games over .500 and they still have the best record in baseball at 34-16.

So it was that Pierre could laugh at a controversial call that doomed the Dodgers to defeat.

With Rafael Furcal at first base and the Dodgers trailing, 2-1, in the eighth inning, Pierre squared to bunt. The pitch by Carlos Marmol hit Pierre in his left knee and squirted away, and Furcal dashed to second.

Pierre said that home plate umpire Tim Timmons initially called the pitch a ball.

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“I don’t think he saw when the ball hit me,” said Pierre, who asked Timmons to check with third base umpire Mark Wegner.

The umpires gathered and emerged with a ruling that surprised Pierre.

Because the ball hit Pierre, the play was dead and Furcal had to return to first base. But because Pierre was ruled to have swung, the pitch was called a strike.

“It was very strange, to say the least,” Torre said.

Pierre had a better sense of humor about it.

Laughing, he said, “In hindsight, I should’ve kept my mouth shut. . . . That’s what I get for trying to umpire.”

Pierre later grounded into a double play.

“The calls didn’t go our way today, but it was no excuse,” said Pierre, who lamented the offense’s inability to reward Billingsley with a victory.

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Billingsley was in All-Star form, holding the Cubs to two runs and eight hits over seven innings. He struck out seven.

Matching Cubs starter Ted Lilly zero for zero through the first six innings was a herculean task for Billingsley, who had to pitch his way out of trouble multiple times.

A second-inning double by Micah Hoffpauir put runners on second and third with none out, but Billingsley retired the next three batters to emerge unscathed.

Billingsley loaded the bases in the fourth but induced an inning-ending groundout from Andres Blanco.

Kosuke Fukudome doubled to the right-field corner and advanced to third on an error by Andre Ethier to lead off the sixth inning, but never scored.

Lilly was the first to crack, serving up a solo homer to Matt Kemp in the seventh. But Koyie Hill took Billingsley deep in the bottom of the inning to tie the score, then Fukudome hit a bases-loaded sacrifice fly to push in the go-ahead run.

“It was a hell of a game,” Torre said. “Both guys certainly didn’t deserve to lose.”

Billingsley (6-3) seemed to accept that he had simply come out on the wrong end of a well-pitched game.

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“You have to give credit to Ted Lilly,” Billingsley said. “He pitched a great game too.”

Lilly (5-5) improved to 4-1 at Wrigley Field, providing the Cubs with a much-needed boost -- the victory was only their third in the last 12 games.

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dylan.hernandez@latimes.com


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