Dodgers' late rally protects West lead
LA scores four runs in eighth to keep 3 1/2-game edge
PHOENIX -- If you tuned in Tuesday night and saw the Dodgers pull one out late, that wasn't a replay from April or May.
That was real time, a clutch, 5-4 win over the D-backs in the midst of a September stretch run. That was the Dodgers, overcoming a franchise-tying five double plays, scoring four runs in the eighth inning.
"To have that happen with five double plays, to score four runs in the eighth inning -- I don't want to say it's a surprise, because we saw this a lot early in the year," manager Joe Torre said. "Recently, we haven't been that club. I hope this is a good sign that we're back to that."
The Dodgers flashed back to their early-season script. Chad Billingsley, lacking life on his fastball, became a breaking-ball pitcher in a mid-game adjustment after allowing three runs in the first two innings and kept the game close enough for his offense to get to the opposing bullpen.
That hasn't been working well lately, but it did against the D-backs, who lost for the sixth consecutive time. The Dodgers entered the eighth inning trailing, 4-1, as Arizona starter Billy Buckner pitched seven strong innings, knocking in one more run than he allowed five days after losing to the Dodgers.
Russell Martin's one-out single started the winning rally. Juan Pierre's chopper could have been a sixth double play, but he was fast enough to beat the relay to first and keep the inning going. Rafael Furcal, who had three hits and a walk, singled with two outs and Matt Kemp followed with an RBI single. Andre Ethier, who doubled home the Dodgers' first run in the first inning, singled home another run off left-hander Daniel Schereth to cut the deficit to 4-3. Manny Ramirez walked to load the bases and James Loney singled to left to tie the game.
"Give credit to their offense, they never stopped," Arizona manager A.J. Hinch said. "They continued to get the next hitter to the plate. Putting that many hits together is difficult. They did it. We couldn't get the last out and we lose the game. It's pretty simple."
Ronnie Belliard, filling in for third baseman Casey Blake and his injured hamstring, then hit a chopper to the right of reliever Esmerling Vasquez, who slipped when he tried to change direction to get the ball as Ethier scored the go-ahead run on a 50-foot single.
"That's good luck," said Belliard, who made a run-saving stop on Ryan Roberts' potential tying grounder in the bottom of the eighth. "I didn't see what happened. I just started running. He threw me a good pitch, a sinker down and in. They pitched me there all night. I've got to make adjustments. But I put the ball in play and anything can happen."
For example, a win that looked like a loss. Especially with all those double plays. Martin bounced into one to end the second inning. Furcal had one in the third. Loney in the fourth. Kemp in the sixth and Belliard in the seventh. To stay out of one, Torre had Orlando Hudson steal second on the first pitch to Martin after Hudson's fifth-inning single. Martin then bounced to shortstop with what would have been a sixth double play.
Since the double play became a stat in 1933, the Dodgers have hit into five double plays nine times. The previous time was 2004, and they also did it in 1974 against the Cardinals, whose first baseman was Torre.
"Baseball is a little crazy," said Furcal, who has struggled offensively all season after missing most of last year with back surgery. "The last two weeks I've been hitting the ball pretty hard, but right at them. I'm feeling better at the plate. I don't want to put an excuse, but it's a little tough with only 130 at-bats. I don't want to say that's why, but now I have almost 600 at-bats."
After Billingsley left, James McDonald struck out the side in the bottom of the seventh and was credited with the win. Hong-Chih Kuo escaped an eighth-inning jam with Belliard's defensive play and Jonathan Broxton notched his 34th save, leaping high to glove Justin Upton's bouncer up the middle to record the final out instead of having runners on the corners with slugger Mark Reynolds coming up.
"Glad I have a tall closer," said Torre.
Broxton has converted nine consecutive saves since blowing one here Aug. 15. He's allowed only one unearned run in the past 13 games and has saved each of the Dodgers' past six wins. He was even clocked at 100 mph.
Billingsley was clocked occasionally at 92, but more often around 90, which is below his norm.
"The reason was, he was trying to make perfect pitches," Torre said. "Between his leg problems [hamstrings] and his lack of wins [none since Aug. 18], maybe he's not there yet as far as trusting his stuff."
Billingsley deflected talk about velocity.
"I was just pitching," he said. "I'm not concerned with velocity or anything."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.