Ethier leads power surge for Dodgers
Right fielder hits two homers; Billingsley wins eighth
LOS ANGELES -- Throughout the past couple of games as the Dodgers struggled to string together extended rallies, manager Joe Torre remained calm about his team's offensive situation.
There was no need to panic in Torre's mind. No need to call for extra batting-practice sessions.
"We'll be fine. We're going to score runs," Torre said on Sunday. "So many questions are being asked about it. I think everyone's being self-conscious about it and probably trying a little bit too hard."
Well, on Tuesday night against the San Diego Padres, the bats came alive, just like Torre said they would.
The Dodgers slugged four solo home runs and scored in five innings en route to a 6-4 win at Dodger Stadium.
Now questions about the lack of offense can go away for at least one night.
Replacing them are ones about the sudden burst in power, and about how good it feels to score in more innings than not.
"That's an important thing," Torre said of his club's five rallies. "Managers just dread, I mean they like scoring runs like getting a three-spot in one of the innings, but if you don't score the rest of the game ... "
"Although we weren't able to manufacture a lot until right there at the end when we scored the one run ... we had four home runs, so there really wasn't a lot of rallying to get four single home runs."
The home runs were a key for the Dodgers, especially when starter Chad Billingsley struggled to find any rhythm against the Padres.
Billingsley gave up three straight singles to open the game, and allowed two runs to score in the first when Kevin Kouzmanoff drove in David Eckstein and Brian Giles with a two-out single.
But it didn't take long for the Dodgers to put a dent in the Padres' lead. Andre Ethier hit a home run in the bottom of the first to cut the deficit to 2-1.
"That was certainly big," Torre said of Ethier's home run. "We were down 2-0, two outs, nobody on, bing, he gives us a home run. That's a momentum shift."
Indeed it was. The Dodgers added another run in the second, and then Ethier hit another solo home run on a first-pitch fastball from right-hander Chris Young in the third inning to give Los Angeles a 3-2 lead.
Ethier now has six career multi-home run games, four this season. And after hitting just .211 in May, Ethier is off to a torrid start in June. He's 13-for-31 with five homers so far this month.
"I've been more aggressive to the pitch in the zone. Sometimes you make mistakes swinging at bad pitches," Ethier said. "Try to limit your swings to the good ones in the zone that you can put a good swing on and put good wood on the ball."
Torre said that one of the key's for Ethier has been his aggressive nature lately at the plate.
"Andre obviously is back," Torre said. "He is very comfortable at the plate and he is attacking the ball."
Ethier wasn't the only Dodger to take Young deep. In the fifth inning, Matt Kemp and Orlando Hudson belted solo shots of their own to equal a Dodgers season-high-tying four home runs on the night.
The homers also put the Dodgers back on top by a count of 5-3 after San Diego tied the game in the top half of the inning when Giles drove in Young on a groundout.
The burst in offense kept the club in front while Billingsley (8-3) continued to work his way out of jams. The Padres put runners on first and second with no outs in the third and got a one-out double in the fourth, but neither time were they able to capitalize with a run.
"A couple of the guys had some really good at-bats on me, fouled off some good pitches," Billingsley said. "I got my pitch count up. I had to battle through it and I was able to keep the game close. And the guys, I mean Andre's been unbelievable lately."
Billingsley lasted 5 2/3 innings and stuck out five before giving way to the bullpen.
And the bullpen was its usual stingy self, aside from a minor slipup by closer Jonathan Broxton in the ninth. As the starters have struggled of late to last past seven innings, the relievers have been instrumental in the team's strong play.
"That's been a big part of why we have been winning so many close games - guys coming out of the bullpen," Torre said. "Those people coming out of the bullpen have been doing a great job. ... It was a great game for us, especially when Billingsley didn't have his best stuff."
David Ely is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.