Dodgers sweat out victory for Billingsley
Bullpen fends off Cubs for righty's first win since May 26
LOS ANGELES -- The importance of the outing Chad Billingsley was able to put together on Friday against the Cubs wasn't fully evident until after he left the ballgame.
The Dodgers' right-hander made the walk to the dugout in the eighth inning with one runner on and a six-run cushion, and yet the bullpen almost didn't seal the deal.
But Los Angeles survived a late rally attempt and hung on to top the Cubs, 9-7, in front of a crowd of 43,790 at Dodger Stadium to ensure at least a split in the four-game series.
"It's a concern," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said of the bullpen. "For the most part, our bullpen has been good. In all fairness to the [entire] bullpen, with the lead we had, we tried to not go to the people we would go to in the late innings with [Hong-Chih Kuo] and [Jonathan Broxton]. We were able to get by with it tonight."
With Billingsley out of the game, the Cubs struck for two runs in the eighth inning -- though one was charged to Billingsley -- against relievers George Sherrill, who gave up a double to Tyler Colvin on his only pitch thrown, and Justin Miller. Then after Miller allowed a single to Kosuke Fukudome to start the ninth, Torre was forced to bring in closer Broxton in a non-save situation. Still, two more runs crossed the plate before Broxton could finish off the inning.
"I consider where we are in the lineup," Torre said of his decision to bring in Broxton. "If there were two out, then you let it become a save situation. I really had a tough time with where we were in the lineup to, say, have another guy get on base, and then we're bringing [Broxton] in to face the 3-4-5 guys. Not that he's not capable, but I'd like to give him a little more room than that."
Billingsley, on the other hand, was a workhorse in picking up his first win since May 26 and his second against the Cubs (38-49) this season.
Billingsley (7-4) struck out nine batters over his seven-plus innings while allowing three earned runs on seven hits and four walks. He wiggled out of two bases-loaded jams in the second and third innings by giving up just one run in each frame -- one coming on a groundout by Mike Fontenot that scored Aramis Ramirez and the other coming on a single by Marlon Byrd to plate Derrek Lee.
"I was just out there pitching, concentrating on what I do and getting outs," Billingsley said. "I got some quick outs there in the middle of the game ... I was able to make pitches when I needed to."
And following a perfect seventh inning, Torre showed Billingsley that he trusted him enough to start the eighth by letting him bat in the bottom of the seventh, even though he had already thrown 115 of his 120 total pitches at the time.
"He was fighting it, and he had a really good seventh inning," Torre said. "We were hoping to get through the eighth at least one hitter with him, and then it got more exciting than we cared to think about.
"They had the left-hander coming up, and then the plan was hopefully to get him out and then come with Sherrill with the next two left-handers, and unfortunately we didn't get the first two guys out."
It didn't hurt that the offense was also there to back up Billingsley. The Dodgers tagged Cubs starter Ted Lilly, who tossed seven shutout innings against Los Angeles earlier this season, for seven runs (five earned), with six of them coming in the second and third innings.
"Ted wasn't sharp. He wasn't sharp at all," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "The last couple starts he's gotten the ball up, and they've hit him."
Russell Martin started the outburst with a three-run homer over the left-field wall in the second, allowing the Dodgers (48-38) to pull ahead, 3-1. It was Martin's first home run since May 11 and also extended his hitting streak to 11 games.
"He needed it," Torre said. "He's so energetic when he gets up there and sometimes just swings so hard that he takes away from his ability. He loves to compete, it's just sometimes he has a little trouble channeling it."
Then, the Dodgers tacked on three more runs the following inning. After Rafael Furcal doubled down the left-field line and Jamey Carroll reached base when Lilly couldn't cleanly flip the ball on a sacrifice bunt to first base, Andre Ethier picked up his first of two RBIs on the night when he sent a single under the glove of a diving Fontenot to score Furcal.
Matt Kemp then followed with a double off the left-field wall to bring home Carroll, and Either later crossed the plate on a sacrifice fly by Casey Blake that pushed the Dodgers' lead to 6-2.
In all, Lilly (3-8) lasted just 3 2/3 innings and allowed seven hits to drop his second consecutive decision.
"I feel like I've got work to do, and I'll do everything I can to get it back together and give us a chance to win," Lilly said. "You go out there like tonight and don't give the club a whole lot to work with. You give up seven or eight runs in three innings and put your team in a real tough position."
Los Angeles tacked on a run each in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings to extend its lead to 9-3. One of those scored because of the bat of James Loney, who recorded his team-leading 59th RBI in the sixth when he launched a double off the right-field wall to bring around Carroll.
"James is just a hitting machine," Torre said. "He's knocked in a lot of runs for us."
Gina Mizell is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.