Hey, Ma, Look Who's in First Place

Chad Billingsley ... improves to 5-2

Manager Joe Torre's eclectic lineup, missing starters Rafael Furcal, James Loney, Andre Ethier, Blake DeWitt and Russell Martin, used the strong arm of Chad Billingsley and hits from an assortment of bit players to dump Detroit 4-1 and moved into a first place tie with San Diego. The Dodgers completed a 13-day worst-to-first surge to pass the Padres atop the National League West.

Chad Billingsley, who had a 7.07 earned run after three starts, stopped Detroit with four hits over seven innings, allowing a single run, walking two and striking out seven. He improved to 3-0 in his last three starts, limiting opponents to a .164 batting average with 20 strikeouts and posting a 1.37 ERA since May 10. He lowered his overall earned run average to 3.66.

During his Dodgers' managerial career, Torre has rested his players, not individually for the most part, but in great batches and somehow they have rustled up an improbable win.

Last night outfielder Reed Johnson singled twice and doubled, first baseman Ronnie Belliard doubled and scored, Jamey Carroll walked and scored a run, Nick Green singled and drove in a run as did catcher A.j. Ellis in the win.

Regulars Manny Ramirez, Matt Kemp and Casey Blake were a combined 2-for-10 with an RBI and a run scored.

Billingsley (5-2) allowed a run in the first inning, then shut down Detroit before handing the ball to Ron Belisario and Jonathan Broxton to close out the win. Broxton recorded his 9th save after striking out three straight in the ninth and has gone a perfect eight-for-eight in save opportunities since May 7, striking out 11 and allowing just six baserunners over 8.0 scoreless innings in that span. After picking up just one save in the club's first 28 games, Broxton has eight saves in the Dodgers' last 14 games.

The much-maligned Dodgers pitching staff has limited opponents to a .202 batting average and posted a 2.42 ERA in their past 12 games.

L.A. also extended their season-long errorless streak to eight games and equaled their longest streak from last season, when the club did not commit an error from August 8-17.

After stumbling through April, the Dodgers have won 11 of their past 12 games and improved to a Major League-best 15-4 (.789) record thus far in May. And with the Padres losing to SEattle, San Francisco losing to Oakland and Colorado losing to Kansas City, Los Angeles has moved into a first place tie with the Padres at 24-18 with the Giants in third place, 1.5 games back.

After winning their 100th Interleague game (against 110 losses), they improved to 14-7 (.667) at home, tying the Cardinals for the second best home winning percentage in the National League behind Atlanta's 13-6 (.684) mark.

Slow Start
Billingsley sputtered a bit early in the game. He allowed a double and a sac fly in the first inning and the Dodgers fell behind 1-0. He stranded two runners in the third and two more in the fourth, one of them was a very catchable ball that went for a double when Ramirez shied away from the outfield fence.

Then he found his groove and allowed one hit over the final three innings and left after making 105 pitches.

Los Angeles couldn't get much going against Detroit starter Dontrelle Willis who allowed only a single by Reed Johnson over the first three innings.

The fourth inning started quietly enough, with Belliard and Ramirez going out on ground balls. Then Kemp singled and moved to second on a wild pitch. Blake and Johnson walked before Nick Green was it on the foot by a Willis pitch to tie the game. Ellis lined to second to end the inning. Green's last two RBI have come in bases loaded situations without the benefit of a hit.

In the fifth, Carroll walked and Belliard doubled to short right. A wild pitch broke the tie and Ramirez hammered a shot off the third baseman's leg for single and a 3-1 lead.

Johnson and Green singled in the sixth and Ellis dropped a single into right-center to account for the final run.

Billingsley retired 10 of the final 11 batters he faced and left after seven innings to allow the bullpen put a lid on the win.

Miguel Cabrera, the Tigers' cleanup hitter and the only one on Detroit's roster who had faced Billingsley before, was 0-for-3 against the All-Star right-hander and now is hitless in 12 career at-bats against him.

"He did a real good job and he threw strikes when he needed to," Cabrera said of Billingsley. "He worked on the outside and inside corners and kept us off-balance. Right now, we're playing in National League parks and there's no DH, so they have the advantage." Cabrera came in leading the Tigers with nine homers, 38 RBIs and a .340 average.

"It's luck, his numbers speak for itself," Billingsley said. "He's a tough out, so you have to go after him tough. I got him with heaters up in the zone. I made quality pitches against him, but it's the same with any quality hitter."

Dodger Blue Notes --The Tigers' only victory against the Dodgers at Chavez Ravine came June 7, 2005, when Duaner Sanchez allowed a go-ahead solo homer. The two historic franchises will meet for just the second time at Dodger Stadium, where the Dodgers took two of three from the Tigers in 2005. Los Angeles has not had a winning record in Interleague Play since going 10-8 in 2004. Joe Torre has the most wins of any manager since the advent of Interleague Play in 1997 and owns a 128-98 record, compiling a 113-79 record with the Yankees (1997-2007) and a 15-19 mark with the Dodgers (2008-09). ...The Dodgers' video crew ran a five-minute tribute on the Diamond Vision screen in honor of Tigers and Brooklyn Dodgers broadcaster Ernie Harwell, who died May 4 at age 92. ...Los Angeles is off to a Major League-best 14-4 start in the month of May and trail only the 1977 team that went 17-3 in April. ...Russell Martin had started 22 consecutive games beginning April 27 and currently leads the Major Leagues in total chances and putouts behind the dish. ...On this day in 2008, Hiroki Kuroda and Takashi Saito became the first Japanese starter and reliever to record both a win and a save in the same big league game. ...The Dodgers celebrated the 30th Anniversary of Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back with a special My Town Section – dubbed "Dodgertown, A Galaxy Far Far Away" – which featured a menu with Boba burgers, Darth Tater chips and Ice Sabers. The first 20,000 fans in attendance received a limited edition 30th Anniversary poster featuring iconic Empire images. Several Star Wars characters, including Chewbacca, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch. ...Former Dodgers pitcher Brad Penny, who won back-to-back Old Slugger Awards as the best-hitting Dodger pitcher in 2007 and 2008, hit a grand slam in the third inning of the team's 9-5 win over the Angels last night, then came out of the game because of a right lat strain. ...Tonight, RHP Armando Galarraga (1-0, 1.59) will face RHP John Ely (2-1, 3.51) in the second game of the series.                  

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