Dodgers one-up D-backs in finale
Blake's sac fly plates only run; Billingsley wins seventh
LOS ANGELES -- It's still only early June, but it doesn't mean that the Dodgers can't start preparing for playoff-type games.And while their opponent Wednesday hasn't been playing much playoff-caliber baseball yet this season, the Dodgers scratched across just one run, which proved to be more than enough for Chad Billingsley and the bullpen as the Dodgers held on for a 1-0 win over the D-backs in front of 33,804 at Dodger Stadium. "This is so important to win games well-pitched by the other team because it's something that when you go to the postseason, and that's obviously our goal, you're going to face the best and learn how to manufacture runs," manager Joe Torre said. "And that's what pretty much happened tonight." Torre didn't want to get ahead of himself talking about the playoffs, but the Dodgers do sport a 9 1/2-game lead in the National League West, which is the club's biggest lead since 1988, when the franchise won its last World Series title. Torre simply wanted to show that his team can win when the opposing pitcher is on his game, and that's exactly what happened against the D-backs in all three games of the series. D-backs starters Billy Buckner, Dan Haren and Jon Garland combined to allow just two earned runs over 19 innings, but the Dodgers still won two of the three games in the series. "We just stayed with them," Torre said. "The wins don't all have to be pretty." Wednesday's game certainly wasn't pretty, but with Billingsley on the mound, the Dodgers didn't need more than one run. Billingsley was impressive, tossing six scoreless innings and striking out nine batters, but he suffered from control problems as he walked four batters and threw 111 pitches through six innings. "It's the kind of game that the ace has to give you the chance to win," Torre said. "Whether he wins it or not, I think the fact the he was able to hold on, more importantly without his best stuff." But even though Billinglsey wasn't as sharp as he usually is, he still managed to strike out nine batters, which was his second-highest total in a game this season. "When I got ahead of hitters, I was able to put them away with my breaking ball," Billingsley said. "It was much easier when I got ahead in the count." Garland, though, was equally impressive as the right-hander allowed just one run on four hits over six innings while striking a season-high six batters. But his one blemish came in the sixth inning when James Loney opened with a triple off the glove of left fielder Gerardo Parra, who dived for the ball near the foul line but came up just short, allowing the ball to go all the way to the wall. Casey Blake then followed with a sacrifice fly. "James is ice-water in the tough situations," Torre said. "He has probably been the calmest guy on the ballclub." The Dodgers then brought in reliever Ronald Belisario, who pitched a scoreless seventh inning before giving way to Ramon Troncoso, who ran into some problems in the eighth when he had runners on first and third and just one out. But Miguel Montero hit a hard ground ball right at shortstop Rafael Furcal, who tagged second and threw to first for the inning-ending double play. "The huge play for me was Furcal with the double play," Torre said. "That was not easy. Our defense has really been a big part of our success so far." It was the second big play by Furcal, who also saved a run in the sixth inning with a runner on second base when Montero hit a hard ground ball that Furcal was able to keep in the infield. Billingsley then got Chris Young to pop out to end the inning. "The big play of the day was when Raffy made that play and kept the runner at third," Billingsley said. "That was a huge play." Jonathan Broxton earned his 13th save by pitching a perfect ninth inning and preserved Billingsley's first win in more than two weeks. "It felt great," Billingsley said of getting the win. "We were able to hold the lead with the guys coming in and shutting the door. Broxton was unbelievable and so was Troncoso and Belisario. Those guys have been throwing pretty well this season."
Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.