Chad Billingsley ... third win of the season
Andre Ethier got the monkey off his back Monday night as the Dodgers dropped Arizona 7-3. Oh, he had three hits and a pair of runs batted in, but he didn't need to carry the whole load himself as eight of the starters collected hits and five of them knocked in runs. As a result, Chad Billingsley won his third game of the season, joining Hiroki Kuroda who also has three.
The Dodgers show signs of overcoming one of their worst starts in years. The hitters hit, the fielders field and, well, the pitchers pitch. Sounds a bit like Kevin Costner in Bull Durham: "Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes you are rained out." It's not quite that simple, but it's the same message.
In his third consecutive game, Chad Billingsley has shown signs of battling out of the inexplicable slump he endured over the first part of the season. Over his last 10.1 innings he has allowed two runs.
He worked into the sixth inning, clinging to a 4-2 lead but when he ran into trouble Ronald Belisario took over and limited the damage to a single run. Hong-Chih Kuo looked to be his old self in the eighth and three runs in the ninth gave the Dodgers -- and Jonathan Broxton -- some breathing room as Ramon Troncoso closed out the win.
Loney got things going with a second-inning homer and the Dodgers took the lead to stay in the third, adding two more in the fifth on Ethier's double and then nailing things down in the ninth.
Loney, with two hits, and Ethier, with three, each finished with a pair of RBI. Blake DeWitt singled twice, walked and knocked in a run while Russ Martin, looking more like a leadoff man every game, singled, walked and scored twice.
Big Road Win
It was only the fifth win on the road in 16 games and the club closed to only two games below .500 and 4.5 games behind division-leading San Diego and at 15-17 in a tie for third place with Colorado. However, somewhat like the NBA, it's tough to win on the road in the National League. Only six teams are above .500 and but two of them, Philadelphia and Milwaukee, are more than a single game over.
Rodrigo Lopez started for Arizona and retired the first four Dodgers before Loney smacked his third homer of the season. The Diamondback's Chris Young tied the game in the bottom of the inning with a home run of his own.
Manny Ramirez singled to center to score Martin after he led off with a walk in the third and put Los Angeles in front to stay. Martin walked again in the fifth, Matt Kemp dropped a looping single into right and Ethier's shot to the wall in right drove them both in for a 4-2 lead.
After Young's home run, Billingsley didn't allow a hit until the sixth inning, striking out a season-high seven along the way. The right-hander walked Adam LaRoche to open the sixth, got Mark Reynolds on a fly ball but served up a double to Steven Drew, drawing Belisario in from the bullpen.
He walked the bases loaded then served up a pair of ground balls, one that drove in the third Arizona run and the other that ended the inning without further damage. Belisario added a scoreless seventh and the Diamondbacks were blown away by Kuo, who struck out two in the eighth.
In the ninth, with two out, and leading by a slim 4-3 margin, Ethier smacked his second double of the game. Ramirez was intentionally walked before three straight RBI singles by Loney, Casey Blake and DeWitt increased the L.A. margin to 7-2.
Troncoso closed the game out, allowing a run on a walk and a hit.
The Dodgers have won six of their last nine and will send John Ely (0-1, 4.04) against RHP Dan Haren (4-1, 4.04) tonight in the second game of the series. After a third game in Phoenix, the Dodgers moved on to San Diego to take on the division-leaders.
Some National League opponents have suggested that Andre Ethier should be promoted to the next higher league. And his 2010 numbers bear them out. Consider this:
• A native of Phoenix and a former Arizona State star, he is 13 for 28 (.464) with a home run and eight RBIs in his last six games against the Diamondbacks.
• He is the NL’s leader in all three Triple Crown categories. Ethier leads all of baseball with a .393 average, is pacing the NL with 34 RBI and is tied for the lead in the Senior Circuit with 10 homers. Ethier also leads the Majors with a .732 slugging percentage and a .452 on-base percentage. His OPS (on-base plus slugging) is an astronomical 1.184.
• Since the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles in 1958, only one player has sported a higher slugging percentage through 31 games than Andre Ethier this season and that was Wally Moon, who had a .768 mark through 31 games in 1961.
•In the month of May, Ethier is hitting a big league best .578 (19-for-36) and 15 RBI.
• Ethier is already 21st all-time in L.A. Dodger history with 85 career home runs. He needs one more to catch Tommy Davis and move into the top 20.
“I’m going up there trying to get a good pitch to hit, putting a good swing on it,” said Ethier, who has 10 home runs and 36 RBIs in 31 games. “I think I’ve become a little bit smarter with my approach and my swing. I know my swing a lot better and what has led to my success in my career, and I try not to shy away from that.”
The Dodgers put pitcher Charlie Haeger on the 15-day disabled list night with "right plantar fasciitis" and the club recalled John Ely, who is expected to start Tuesday night. Ely is one of 12 rookies in the Majors to start at least two games this season. The Rockies are the only team in baseball to have two different rookies start more than one game. The Los Angeles Dodgers’ rookie record for starts in a season belongs to Don Sutton (35) in 1966. Hiroki Kuroda’s 31 starts in 2008 ranks second.
Ken Gurnick of MLB/com writes that while Ely doesn't talk to baseballs or manicure mounds on his hands and knees, but he's the closest thing to the late Mark "The Bird" Fidrych that ever wore a Dodgers uniform. "Ely reminds me of Fidrych a lot," said acting Dodgers bullpen coach Jim Slaton, who played with the unconventional Fidrych in Detroit in 1978 and coached Ely earlier this year at Triple-A Albuquerque.
"I haven't been around John a lot, but he's got that nervous energy and people feed off that. With both of them, there's nothing fake about it. Fidrych was sincere. John isn't to the extent of talking to balls and fixing the mound, but it's refreshing to see and fun to be around. He even looks like 'The Bird' with the long hair."
"Ely is worth watching, and not only when he's pitching. When he takes the field, he hops over the foul line. He'll go through some severe gyrations before his warmup tosses, wind-milling his throwing arm, swiveling at the hips to stretch his torso, walking semi-circles around the mound before toeing the rubber to begin his warmups."
Furcal to Rehab at Inland Empire
Shortstop Rafael Furcal will report to Class A Inland Empire for a two-game injury rehabilitation assignment instead of with Triple-A Albuquerque, manager Joe Torre said. Bad weather changed his assignment from playing with Albuquerque in Colorado Springs. Furcal went on the disabled list May 4 with a strained left hamstring suffered trying to beat out a double-play ground ball. He was batting .309 with eight stolen bases, only four fewer than he had all last year.
Dodger Blue Notes --Arizona has homered in 12 of its last 14 games. ...Ramirez was booed every time he batted. ...Joe Torre was annoyed when told FOX Sports reported that "unnamed friends" claim he wouldn't return for a fourth season as manager unless the Dodgers' ownership situation improves. "Obviously they're not friends of mine," Torre said. "I don't really allow those conversations out of my home. I haven't made up my mind and won't until closer to the end of the season." ...Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully made his first road trip of the 2010 season, which marks his 61st year behind the mic for the Dodgers. The franchise joined the National League in 1890 and has been in existence for 121 years, which now means that Scully has been the voice of the team for more than half of the club’s history. ...Casey Blake has enjoyed far greater success this season away from Dodger Stadium. On the road in 2010, the Dodger third baseman is hitting .313 with a .346 OBP and .563 slugging percentage compared to .200-.322-320 marks at home. ...Since coming to Los Angeles, the club’s worst record after 31 games was 10-21 in 1958. ...Reliever George Sherrill has appeared in 17 games this season, tying him for fifth in the NL in that category. Though he has struggled at times, he is holding left-handed hitters to just a .100 batting average (2-for-20), the second-lowest mark in the NL behind San Francisco’s Jonathan Sanchez (.100).