Loss gives LA first three-game skid of '09
Billingsley unravels in sixth inning; Loretta tosses in relief
ST. LOUIS -- Mark Loretta called it a "strange" game, and he should know.
He was the only pitcher that manager Joe Torre sent to the mound Tuesday night that didn't give up a run, and he's a utility infielder. A game so strange that the Dodgers outhit the Cardinals but were outscored by 10 in a 10-0 shutout.
Now the Dodgers, who still have the best record in baseball, also have their first three-game losing streak, 100 games into the season. There are leaks in the rotation and the bullpen, the offense isn't delivering clutch hits and they've run into a retooled Cardinals club that has played with a postseason efficiency.
Just don't look for any sign of panic from the manager.
"To me, 1-0 or 10-0, sometimes this is a little easier to take than 1-0, where you could have done this and could have done that," Torre said. "A loss is a loss. You don't like to get beat around. It happens. To have gone this long losing only two in a row is pretty unusual.
"We have to get ourselves righted and score some runs to take the pressure off our pitchers. There is a time or two during a season when you have to take your lumps and bounce back. We'll show up the next day. I think this club is fine as far as state of mind. I'm not concerned about that."
Nor, said Torre, is he concerned about starting pitcher Chad Billingsley (10-6), who pitched one of the strangest games of his career. After an 85-minute rain delay at the start and through five innings of a scoreless duel with Adam Wainwright, Billingsley had a one-hitter.
Then he couldn't get out of the sixth inning. He faced nine batters and was charged with six runs for the second time in his past three starts. He issued four of his six walks (two intentionally) and had a wild pitch.
"I'll tell you, Billingsley had really good stuff," Torre said. "It got to the point, in a close game, it just looked to me like he was trying to make every pitch perfect. That was about as good and loose and free I've seen him in a while."
But a pair of walks, a couple more intentional walks and two-run singles by Ryan Ludwick and Yadier Molina opened the floodgates. Even Wainwright added an RBI single that finally brought Torre's hook. And after two impressive innings from Claudio Vargas, rookie reliever Brent Leach continued his slump, unable to retire any of the four batters he faced while allowing a three-run homer to Mark DeRosa. (Leach has allowed 10 of the past 15 batters he's faced to reach base.)
That's when Torre went to Loretta, who volunteered to make his first Major League mound appearance in eight years when he saw setup man Ramon Troncoso warming up to enter a game the Dodgers had no chance to win.
Billingsley said his sixth-inning demise was a combination of trying to be too "precise" with his pitches, and some well-placed hits on counts in the batter's favor.
"The first five innings went well," he said. "The sixth inning speaks for itself."
The Dodgers also believe the fact they've avoided a three-game losing streak this long is a sign of toughness.
"We have been pretty resilient," said Loretta. "It was a strange game with the rain delay, then both pitchers did a great job and the one inning got away from Billingsley. It was anybody's game to that point. It's a throwaway game and you come back and regroup.
"I don't think anything is really different now. It's a little down period. We haven't scored as many runs, but you go through lulls. We've got a very good offensive team that bounces back quickly. This gets your attention, but it doesn't make you panic."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.