Belliard's slam leads Dodgers' charge
Four homers back Garland; playoff magic number at six
LOS ANGELES -- The more Jon Garland and Ronnie Belliard play, the more it looks like they could take postseason roles once assumed to be owned by Chad Billingsley and Orlando Hudson.
Garland pitched eight innings without allowing an earned run Saturday while Belliard keyed a 12-1 win over Brad Penny and the Giants with a grand slam, one of four Dodgers homers
"I'm always ready to take the ball, but that's a question for Joe [Torre]," said Garland, who had two effective postseason starts for the White Sox in 2005.
Garland enjoyed the windfall of support. The only Giants run was tainted by a Manny Ramirez error, and Garland walked none. He's 3-0 with a 2.33 ERA and four quality starts since being traded to the Dodgers by Arizona three weeks ago. Meanwhile, Billingsley is in a monthlong slump that continued with a relief appearance Friday night. He's scheduled to start in Washington on Wednesday.
"The big thing for us was bouncing back," Torre said a day after his pitching staff was pushed around in an 8-4 loss to the Giants. "We got Jon the lead and he knew what to do with it. He won't overpower you, but he'll keep you from looking for one pitch. That was vintage stuff, a veteran pitcher with a lead making them hit the ball."
Belliard, who has started in place of Hudson seven times, slugged his fourth home run in the 15 games he's played since he joined the club in a trade from Washington.
"Belliard seems to be comfortable in his own skin," Torre said. "I've played him in a lot of situations and haven't told him in advance, but he's a pro, he competes. I was talking to Jim Thome during the game about him. They were teammates in Cleveland. He's a good addition for us."
Belliard is batting .308 with eight extra-base hits and 12 RBIs as a Dodger. He also started five games at third base while Casey Blake nursed a hamstring. Meanwhile, Hudson is hitting .250 this month while Torre suspects that Hudson played so much early in the season that he's tired now.
"Well -- lucky four times," said Belliard, who insists he's not a home run hitter and has never hit more than 17 in a full season. "I was looking for a pitch to hit and he threw me a fastball inside and I reacted to it."
In addition to Belliard's slam, Matt Kemp (No. 25) and James Loney hit back-to-back homers and Blake DeWitt slugged his second pinch-homer. Loney's was his first of the year at home. Eight Dodgers drove in runs and nine of them had hits, three by Loney, as the magic number to clinch a postseason berth was trimmed to six. It was the most lopsided Dodgers win in six weeks.
The Dodgers' five-run first inning was the bulk of the seven runs the Dodgers scored off Penny, their former teammate. He exited after 2 2/3 innings to an editorial comment by the Dodger Stadium sound system, which played the chorus to the hit country song by Penny's buddy, Toby Keith.
"I ain't as good as I once was..." Keith sang, and while it was only six days after a revitalized Penny shut down the Dodgers, neither he nor the Dodgers' offense looked the same. A two-time Dodgers All-Star, Penny was booed at every mention in his Giants uniform.
"This was my loss, not the team's loss," Penny said. "My focus wasn't there. I beat myself. I was getting behind [in the count]. ... I didn't make pitches and that's the bottom line."
"I don't think he had the same command on his fastball or feel for his offspeed pitches," Dodgers catcher Russell Martin said of Penny, who had a 33-pitch first inning.
By comparison, Garland had baserunners in six innings but kept the damage to a minimum.
"He had command of all his pitches today," Martin said. "He didn't really leave any balls over the plate and was just picking both sides of the plate, working off the edges and he was dominating today. He has a game plan he goes out there and he executes. He's a competitor. But his stuff, his stuff is working for him right now and that's huge for him."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.