Dodgers shut down by Davis, D-backs
Offense slumps again, spoils Billingsley's strong outing
LOS ANGELES -- You can tell by the way Grady Little answers questions -- and the way Jeff Kent doesn't -- that losing is getting to the Dodgers.
They've done it 10 times in the last 14 games after Friday night, when Chad Billingsley gave them nearly eight innings and the Dodgers offense gave him nothing.
First-place Arizona took a 1-0 decision on Chris Snyder's eighth-inning home run, dropping the Dodgers into third place. They are two games back for the first time in more than a month and only 1 1/2 games ahead of fourth-place Colorado.
This was a bitter one to swallow for the Dodgers, who haven't had enough solid starting pitching in the second half to afford wasting a gem like Billingsley's.
Little stacked his lineup with right-handed hitters for this game after the one he used on Thursday night stranded 13 runners and went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position. This version avoided that problem by getting only one runner into scoring position the entire night.
That was Juan Pierre, who reached first on an infield single in the first inning, stole second after seemingly being picked off first, continued to third on Snyder's throwing error, but stayed there when Russell Martin bounced back to the pitcher and Olmedo Saenz flied out.
"The only positive thing about the offense is we didn't leave the bases loaded two or three times," said Little, whose offense committed that sin three times Thursday night.
The Dodgers had only three singles off Doug Davis -- by top three hitters Rafael Furcal, Pierre and Martin -- and sent the minimum number of batters to the plate after Martin's hit leading off the fourth inning.
Little used Saenz to bat cleanup with Kent missing a fourth game with a strained hamstring and Saenz went 0-for-3, extending his five-week slump to 1-for-23. Delwyn Young had his first Major League start for Luis Gonzalez in left field and went 0-for-3. Ramon Martinez started at second base again and had three ground outs. Matt Kemp went 0-for-3.
"We shook it up a little bit tonight," said Little. "I'm sure they'll find out if they produce, they'll play a little more often."
Little needs Kent back in the lineup, but said he didn't expect that to happen Saturday night when Derek Lowe returns from a sore hip.
"He's not probable," Little said of Kent. "He's progressing. We'll put him right in the lineup when he's ready. It's the kind of injury we won't take a chance with. It very easily could be a two or three week thing."
Kent was quarrelsome after the game, refusing to discuss his injury or when he might return, saying he was in a bad mood because of the loss.
And not needing any further bad news, Little tried to downplay a sprained ankle suffered by Martin sliding into second base in the fourth inning. Martin aggravated the ankle lunging for first base avoiding a double-play grounder, then did it no further good when he was picked off trying to steal second.
But Martin taped the injury and stayed in the game, and Little said Martin was "fine to play and ready to go."
The Dodgers came away from the game shaking their heads in puzzlement over Davis, who has never allowed them an earned run in 30 innings. He threw a complete-game shutout against them last September, allowed one unearned run in a 2-1 loss at Los Angeles in May and was in complete control for his eight innings on Friday night, with Jose Valverde pitching the ninth inning for his 32nd save.
"Davis pitched well today, extremely well," said Nomar Garciaparra. "We just didn't put runs up there. We hit some balls hard, they made great plays as well. Great plays happen when a pitcher has great rhythm there and keeps his defenders on their toes."
Except for one pitch, Billingsley pretty much matched Davis, striking out eight and allowing five hits. Snyder has 26 career home runs, seven against the Dodgers.
"Wanted to go away and I got it away but left it up a bit," said Billingsley. "David did what he's supposed to do and I made one mistake. Sometimes it comes down to that. A loss is a loss, but it's tough when it's in the division."
Billingsley was coming off a 4 1/3 inning start in Colorado, when he allowed a pair of home runs and three walks. This time he said he had better command of his fastball to set up his off-speed pitches.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.