Dodgers cruise past Mets
LA clubs three homers in Billingsley's second straight win
LOS ANGELES -- Joe Torre didn't have to say it, his club said it for him Monday night.
He's alive and well and winning in L.A.
Torre's Dodgers played a textbook game to beat a team he once managed from a city he just left. The Dodgers defeated the New York Mets, 5-1, pulling to within three games of Arizona for the first time since April 11. They've won nine of 10, but this was about as efficient as it gets.
They got home runs from Rafael Furcal, National League Player of the Week Matt Kemp and Blake DeWitt (his first in the Majors); six solid innings from winning starter Chad Billingsley; and three perfect innings from back-end relievers Joe Beimel, Jonathan Broxton and Takashi Saito.
Defensively, Furcal turned in what has become a daily web gem to rob David Wright of a hit from shallow left field to put down the fifth inning, then was perfectly positioned to start a double play that put down the next inning. The shortstop has been prominent on offensive stat sheets all year for all to see, but it sometimes takes opposing reactions to quantify defense.
"Ever since he was with Atlanta, he's been taking away hits pretty consistently," said Wright. "He's one of the best out there, and if he gets to a ball, there's a pretty good chance he's going to throw you out because he's got a pretty good arm. He's taken away some better ones than that. He's pretty incredible out there."
Offensively, along with the long ball, there was well-timed small ball, as Juan Pierre stole a base to set up one run and was on the move when Kemp homered in the three-run fifth inning. Pierre (.324) went 1-for-3 with a walk, the steal and scored twice.
Kemp, meanwhile, got off to a pretty good start to repeating as the NL Player of the Week. He had two hits to extend his streak to 10 games and has 18 RBIs in his last nine games. He said having the speedy Pierre on base contributed to his homer off loser Oliver Perez.
"You have to think they don't want to throw an off-speed pitch, because they want to be able to throw Juan out, so I figured I'd be aggressive early in the count and I got a fastball," said Kemp (.330), who drove it the opposite way, as he did with an eighth-inning single.
"He's one of those handfuls of players that can take it the other way and hit it out anyway," said Torre.
That fifth inning started with the left-handed DeWitt taking the left-handed Perez over the center-field fence on a 1-0 pitch, yet another milestone for the 22-year-old third baseman who is 11-for-29 (.379) against lefties and .295 overall.
"When I got around first base, I saw it go. I got the chills," said DeWitt. "I was so excited, I didn't notice anything."
When he returned to the Dodgers dugout, he noticed he was being ignored, the ceremonial silent treatment that acknowledges the popularity of Nomar Garciaparra's fill-in.
"That was pretty neat," DeWitt said. "They were all sitting. Then they all jumped up and congratulated me."
Meanwhile, the crowd was giving DeWitt the anti-silent treatment. They demanded a curtain call.
"I didn't really know what to do," DeWitt admitted. "[Hitting coach Mike] Easler got me. I hope my parents got to see it on TV."
DeWitt sheepishly made it halfway up the dugout steps and, with a quick wave, turned and went back to the bench.
"I never would have dreamed of that," he said of the encore. "It was pretty special, something I'll never forget."
Furcal got it started with a leadoff homer in the first inning, his team-high fifth. Pierre singled, stole second and eventually scored on Russell Martin's single. So Billingsley had a lead with which to work. After three consecutive starts with at least eight strikeouts, Billingsley lacked the curveball strikeout pitch in this game and walked four, but escaped all but one jam.
"He got us into the seventh inning and made the lead stand up," Torre said. "That's going to be the key, for our starters to get into the seventh so we don't overuse our bullpen. I thought Chad was a lot better tonight. He's gotten 12 strikeouts, but gave up five runs. Tonight he pitched to contact. He's been very smooth three in a row now and that's pretty special."
Billingsley walked Luis Castillo leading off the seventh, but Beimel lowered his ERA to 0.75 by retiring his three hitters. Broxton (1.93 ERA) got his with a pair of strikeouts and Saito (1.88) closed it out without a ball leaving the infield.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.