LOS ANGELES -- It's not a stretch to say Chad Billingsley is the ace of the Dodgers' quality pitching staff.

Billingsley, who will take the mound for Los Angeles Tuesday in St. Louis, has gone 7-2 with a 2.21 ERA in his past nine starts beginning June 17, yielding three runs or fewer in eight of those outings.

"He's our horse," Dodgers catcher Russell Martin said. "He goes out there and he just competes. No matter if he has his good stuff or not, you know he's going to give a good effort."

With Billingsley pitching in his third Major League season, the Dodgers expected a breakout year from him but were disappointed when he lost his first four decisions and did not pick up a victory until April 30.

Billingsley said he has had confidence throughout the season, but he has changed his thought process a bit. Looking back, he said he was trying to do too much and be too precise with his pitches.

Now, Billingsley said he trusts his stuff more when he goes to the mound.

Pitching in humid St. Louis, Billingsley said hydrating will be a key, as well as having quick innings to lessen the effect of the weather.

He will be facing a St. Louis club that gives Los Angeles fits, with the Dodgers winning just five of 20 against the Cardinals since 2005 and having lost eight of nine at Busch Stadium. St. Louis took three of three May 23-25 this year at Dodger Stadium.

"They've got a good lineup," Billingsley said. "They're a tough lineup, they've got a great team over there, they play well, they play hard. They know how to win games, and they battle you. They're going to be a tough team. They're in a race, too. It's going to be a good series, a fun series and a hot series."

With Billingsley coming off the first shutout of his career Wednesday against the Giants, the Dodgers feel confident with him on the hill.

"I just go out there every fifth day and always set goals for the season, try not to miss a start, try to get 200 innings in and keep getting quality starts and quality innings in, and just go out there every fifth day and try to win the game," Billingsley said. "That's all you can do."

Pitching matchup
LAD: RHP Chad Billingsley (11-9, 3.05 ERA)
You don't often see shutouts end with a play at the plate, but as Billingsley said, he'll take it. He beat the Giants with a five-hitter and is 7-2 since mid-June. He leads the rotation in all the pertinent categories: victories, strikeouts, innings, etc. He's become the latest staff ace, even though he just turned 24.

STL: RHP Chris Carpenter (0-0, 2.25 ERA)
Carpenter will try to stretch it past four innings in his first home start since undergoing Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery. He'll likely be on an increased, but still limited, pitch count. That means a major key for the right-hander will be getting off to a good start, so he doesn't use up all of his pitches in the first two or three innings. His pattern in rehab starts as well as his first regular-season start was a slow beginning, followed by significant improvement.

Tidbits
Dodgers manager Joe Torre said sending struggling outfielder Andruw Jones to the Minors has not been discussed because the organization feels he has the best chance to return to form working with hitting coaches Don Mattingly and Jeff Pentland in the Majors. "You're taking him away from the people that we think can help him," Torre said. "That's not something we're comfortable with right now. Hopefully, we can see some progress." ... The Dodgers pitchers posted a 1.80 ERA during the team's 10-game homestand in which the club went 7-3. Taking out Hiroki Kuroda's seven-run, 3 2/3-inning stinker on July 28, that ERA drops to a 1.15. The Dodgers lead the Majors with a 2.86 home ERA for the season. ... Los Angeles will begin a stretch of playing 13 days in a row and 29 of 30 days overall after Monday's off-day. ... The Dodgers have run up the second-best record in the National League since June 17. Their 25-17 mark in that time trails the Brewers by just a half game. ... Cory Wade has thrown seven straight scoreless innings in his past five outings. ... After this weekend's split with first-place Arizona, Los Angeles is 5-7 against the D-backs this season. They next play Aug. 29-31 in Phoenix. ... Dodgers vice president of stadium operations Lon Rosenberg was re-elected as a national vice president of the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

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Up next
• Wednesday: Dodgers (Derek Lowe, 8-9, 3.70) at Cardinals (Joel Pineiro, 3-5, 5.04), 5:15 p.m. PT
• Thursday: Dodgers (Clayton Kershaw, 1-3, 4.02) at Cardinals (Kyle Lohse, 13-3, 3.73), 11:15 a.m. PT
• Friday: Dodgers (Brad Penny, 5-9, 5.88) at Giants (Barry Zito, 6-13, 5.40), 7:15 p.m. PT