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08/03/09 12:46 AM ET

Billingsley exits with right hamstring cramp

Dodgers righty seen pleading his case to stay in the game

ATLANTA -- After hearing all this talk around the Trade Deadline that the Dodgers need a No. 1 starter, Chad Billingsley went out and pitched like one Sunday night.

He had a two-hit shutout through five innings when he was removed by manager Joe Torre for precautionary reasons after wincing on the mound from a right hamstring cramp.

"I told Russ [Martin, catcher] I was cramping -- not every pitch, but when I was striding, and he looked in the dugout," said Billingsley. "I shouldn't have said anything."

Billingsley said he wasn't really hurt, blamed the cramp on the effects of a humid summer night and his tendency to dehydrate and said he expected to make his next start Friday night against the same Braves.

"It was going well and I didn't want to come out," said the All-Star right-hander, who raised his record to 11-6 with the Dodgers' 9-1 win over the Braves. "I didn't think it was bad enough to come out, but it's Joe's call. He didn't want to risk something serious."

Billingsley said he started to feel the cramp warming up for the fifth inning. He struck out Adam LaRoche, but had an awkward follow through on a 1-2 pitch to Matt Diaz that brought out Torre and trainer Stan Conte.

After a brief delay, Billingsley struck out Diaz, walked Diory Hernandez, then struck out pinch-hitter Greg Norton for his ninth strikeout.

Billingsley was scheduled to lead off the top of the sixth inning and was seen pleading his case with Torre to stay in the game.

"He was very strong-willed at that point," said Torre. "I almost gave in, but I would have never forgiven myself if something happened. You pitch to compensate and all of a sudden you hurt your arm."

After a delay of several minutes -- including discussions between plate umpire Scott Barry and Torre, then Atlanta manager Bobby Cox -- Jason Schmidt was sent up to bat for Billingsley and singled up the middle. Schmidt eventually scored on James Loney's double.

Torre said in addition to not wanting to risk injury, he didn't want Billingsley to do anything to mess with another good start. Although he allowed six runs in the sixth inning at St. Louis on Tuesday night, he had a one-hitter through five that had Torre raving and now has three consecutive starts that Torre considers "impressive."

Billingsley said he was pleased with his fastball command. Martin said Billingsley all but abandoned the cutter against the Braves, "going back to the basics with the fastball, because it sets up everything else."

"I think I've had better overall stuff, but today I was getting punchouts," said Billingsley. "I've got to go out and do it again."

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.