07/05/09 10:14 PM ET
Loney's homer lifts Dodgers in 13 innings
Billingsley, Broxton can't hold five-run lead in ninth
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
But the Dodgers did Sunday, 7-6 over the Padres, and here's manager Joe Torre's theory on why and how.
"I guess it's the product of the fact we've played so many close games," he said. "Even though we're emotionally drained after the ninth, we go out and work at it. I feel very fortunate we were able to hold it together and come out with a victory."
So even though Chad Billingsley took a two-hitter into the ninth and even though Jonathan Broxton came unglued with three walks as the Padres tied the scored and even though Manny Ramirez saw only one pitch and the Dodgers stranded 14 runners while outhitting San Diego by a dozen, the winningest team found another way to win.
James Loney opened the 13th with his club's fourth home run of the game and long reliever Jeff Weaver (5-2), in his third inning of work, made it stand in a game that lasted more than 4 1/2 hours.
"I heard before the game [Randy] Wolf say we'd go 13 innings today," Loney said. "Blame it all on him."
While the Dodgers bullpen suffered meltdowns in back-to-back games, it was also the relief work of Dodgers relievers, and particularly Weaver, that restored order.
"He's been so good for us, just coming in with a certain calmness," said Torre. "When he comes in, it's so different than when he was with me in New York."
Before Weaver, Torre used three relievers in a bases-loaded jam in the 10th -- rookie left-hander Brent Leach ending the inning by popping up Will Venable with one pitch that Torre called the biggest of the game. And Torre did not have Ramon Troncoso available after recent heavy usage.
"If there's such a thing as momentum in baseball, when they tied it up, you just felt -- ugh," said third baseman Casey Blake, whose three-run homer in the third inning gave the Dodgers a 4-0 lead. "Most of the time that takes the wind out of your sails. But that's when our bullpen came on and kept us in the game. We kept our focus. It just would be a little easier on the nerves if we didn't have all these close games."
Until San Diego's remarkable comeback, it wasn't a close game. In addition to Loney and Blake, the Dodgers built a 6-1 lead on home runs from Andre Ethier and even Billingsley's first as a Major Leaguer.
Billingsley had cruised into the ninth inning with a two-hitter, but allowed a homer to Chase Headley and a double to Tony Gwynn. Broxton took over and walked three, including Eliezer Alfonzo with the bases loaded. He then allowed a tying two-run single by Everth Cabrera, but the inning ended on the play when Alfonzo overslid third base and was tagged out on Matt Kemp's throw and Blake's tag.
"I didn't have it," said Broxton, who blew a five-run lead to the Padres by himself at PETCO Park on June 7, 2007. "I couldn't throw the ball over the plate. I fell behind, and you can't afford to give up walks. It cost us, but we came back to win it. Just not the way you plan it."
For the fourth time, Billingsley was unable to record his 10th win, but he was so efficient with his pitches and pitch count that Torre sent him out for the ninth inning and a chance at a complete game.
"He was great," said Torre. "He had only 90 pitches to the ninth and he pitched to contact. That's what I really liked. He hit. He did everything but win."
The Dodgers' offense included seven hits from the top of the order, four from Juan Pierre, three from Rafael Furcal. Pierre started for Ramirez, who was rested at the start of the third game after his return from suspension because of leg soreness, until he flied out as a pinch-hitter in the 11th inning.
Ethier added to his club-leading home run total with No. 16 leading off the second inning against Josh Banks. Blake widened the lead with a three-run homer in the third inning, which began with a Billingsley double down the right-field line and included a solid body-check collision at the plate when Billingsley sent Padres catcher Alfonzo tumbling.
Billingsley went deep to left field leading off the fifth inning, followed by a Furcal triple and Pierre's RBI single.
Was Billingsley auditioning for a slot in the All-Star Home Run Derby?
"Maybe I can beg to get in there," he said.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.