05/29/09 7:29 PM ET
LA falls as offense struggling at Wrigley
Kemp's homer lone run; Billingsley takes gritty defeat
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
The Dodgers swept their National League Division Series with the Cubs last year, but a 2-1 loss Friday after a 2-1 win Thursday night should remind the Dodgers that victories outside their division won't come as easily.
"It's always a battle when you come to Wrigley Field, and I don't care what their record is," said Juan Pierre. "Today's game, I think we should have won. We've got to move the ball better."
A scoreless duel for six innings between Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley and former Dodgers farmhand Ted Lilly ended when Matt Kemp slugged his fifth home run with two out in the top of the seventh. Koyie Hill, another former Dodger, answered with a home run leading off the bottom of the seventh.
"It was a cutter in. Late in the game, he hit it out and the wind was blowing in," said Billingsley (6-3), who has lost his last two starts. "Any loss is tough. A close game and one mistake hurts you. Things happen. I mean, it's very tough to swallow."
One out after Hill's homer, the Cubs loaded the bases on three consecutive singles, Kosuke Fukudome broke the tie with a sacrifice fly, and that was enough to ruin a gritty start from Billingsley, who pitched out of three earlier jams: second and third with no outs in the second inning; bases loaded with two outs in the fourth; and a runner on third and no outs in the sixth. Billingsley and Lilly pitched seven innings each.
"'Bills' pitched his tail off again," said manager Joe Torre. "Runners on third and he comes away untouched, that's pretty incredible stuff."
Until Kemp's home run -- one of five Los Angeles hits -- the Dodgers mounted close to nothing against Lilly, who had allowed only one runner to reach second when he walked Pierre with two out in the third and wild pitched him to second.
"You have to credit Lilly," said Torre. "I had him [in New York], and he has days when it looks like his fastball is down the middle but it doesn't hit the fat part of the bat, and he competes."
The play that might have kept the Dodgers from tying the game occurred in the eighth, with Pierre batting after reliever Carlos Marmol issued a four-pitch leadoff walk to pinch-hitter Rafael Furcal, who was getting a start off after returning from a buttocks muscle injury.
Pierre squared to bunt. Marmol's 0-1 pitch hit Pierre in the left knee and the ball bounced to the backstop. Plate umpire Tim Timmons made no call, ruling the pitch a ball. Third-base coach Larry Bowa urged Furcal to take second on an apparent wild pitch.
But Pierre appealed to Timmons that he was hit by the pitch, then to third-base umpire Mark Wegner. An umpires meeting ensued, and Wegner decided that Pierre had been hit by the pitch, but also attempted to bunt it. So to Timmons, it was strike two on Pierre and, when it hit his knee, the ball was dead, so Furcal was sent back to first base.
"In hindsight, I should have kept my mouth shut, and at least the guy would be on second," said Pierre. "That's what I get for trying to umpire."
The replay showed the pitch hit Pierre, who appeared to be getting out of the way of the ball and not offering at it, although he also appeared to have his left foot out of the batter's box.
"It's funny, we went down to check and see if the ball hit him, and they came back with the fact he swung," said Torre. "Very strange, to say the least."
Then it got worse. Pierre bounced into a 4-6-3 double play, although Torre argued with first-base umpire Jeff Kellogg that Pierre beat shortstop Andres Blanco's throw to first.
"It was pretty close, bang-bang, it could have gone either way," said Pierre. "It's just one of those things. Umpires are human. The calls didn't go our way. No excuses. We had the go-ahead runs on base the last inning. We had a couple guys in scoring position, and you hate to see something like that happen. We should have pushed a couple runs across."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.