Dodgers' hitting is on, Chad Billingsley is off in 7-5 loss at Colorado

Reporting from Denver

With more losses than victories in his career and an earned-run average above 5.00, Jason Hammel fits the profile of a pitcher the Dodgers should hit.

Well, the low-scoring Dodgers hit Hammel on Wednesday, and they hit him hard.

But the Colorado Rockies hit Chad Billingsley harder.

In the Dodgers' 7-5 loss to the Rockies at Coors Field, Billingsley had one of those ineffective starts that have blemished his otherwise promising career.

Billingsley (1-1), who recently signed a three-year, $35-million contract extension, was charged with five runs, six hits and three walks in three innings.

With his pitch count bloated to 86 because of a 42-pitch, three-run third inning, Manager Don Mattingly had Aaron Miles pinch-hit for the right-hander in the fourth inning.

"I couldn't get ahead of hitters," Billingsley said. "I had to come back over the plate."

Of the 19 hitters he faced, nine had three-ball counts. One, Todd Helton, hit a home run.

"I just think he didn't have the feel," catcher Rod Barajas said.

Billingsley's record at hitter-friendly Coors Field dropped to 1-4 with a 7.24 ERA.

One bad start has sometimes turned into a string of them for Billingsley. But these days, he doesn't seem like the same guy who had trouble emerging from slumps.

"To me, over the course of last season, he really seemed to come along," Mattingly said. "He's confident in his stuff. I don't think he's going to have any trouble."

Unlike in previous years, Billingsley didn't claim to have pitched well when he didn't. He didn't sigh repeatedly when fielding questions from reporters. Asked whether he could put this behind him, he answered without any hesitation: "Absolutely."

There were also some signs of growth from the Dodgers offense — though being shut down by Hammel would have been cause for major concern

The Dodgers, who were shut out Tuesday, began the game having hit only one home run. They hit two against Hammel, one by James Loney in the second inning and one by Barajas in the third.

They scored three runs in the third inning to take a 4-2 lead, only for Billingsley to turn that into a 5-4 deficit.

Right-hander Blake Hawksworth put the Dodgers in a 7-4 hole by serving up a two-run home run to Troy Tulowitzki in the fourth inning.

Hammel (1-0) earned the victory despite giving up four runs and six hits in five innings.

Down, 7-5, in the ninth inning, the Dodgers were oh-so-close to a breakthrough.

But Carlos Gonzalez ran down a ball hit to left field by Rafael Furcal, taking away a likely extra-base hit that could have tied the score.

"For sure, I thought it was over his head," Furcal said.

Jamey Carroll remained on first base and Barajas stayed on second. Hector Gimenez and Andre Ethier each struck out against closer Huston Street and the game was over.

Mattingly said he didn't consider pinch-running for Barajas, a 35-year-old catcher who runs like a 35-year-old catcher. The decision to not do so might have cost the Dodgers a base, as Barajas didn't even try to advance to third base when Gonzalez bobbled a single by Carroll.

"Not really there, not down two," Mattingly said. "If I was down one, I'd obviously put [Tony Gwynn Jr.] in there. Down two, we still have to get some hits."

The Dodgers (3-3) were one for 11 with men in scoring position.

They will be off Thursday and start a three-game series in San Diego on Friday.

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