09/03/09 2:07 AM ET
Dodgers tripped up by D-backs
NL West lead over Rockies sliced to 4 1/2 games
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
They were dropped Wednesday night by Arizona and Max Scherzer, 4-1, averting a shutout only with an eighth-inning run on a Manny Ramirez RBI single. The Dodgers had seven hits, three by Andre Ethier. But they've been held to two runs or fewer 11 times in the past 24 games.
"It's going to change," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "We're too good a team. We're too good of a production team to continue doing this."
Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley was perfect for 4 1/3 innings before things went haywire in a four-run fifth inning that included Brandon Allen's two-run homer. The Dodgers' National League West lead over Colorado is 4 1/2 games.
They try to salvage a split of the four-game series Thursday night by sending Jon Garland to the mound against the team he pitched for five days earlier.
The Dodgers acquired Garland to bolster the back end of their rotation. But in truth, it's hard to define the front end of their rotation.
Billingsley was their biggest winner last year with 16 and with Hiroki Kuroda sidelined most of the first two months, Billingsley was the ace, winning his first five decisions.
By mid-June, Billingsley was 9-3, but he's 3-6 in his past 14 starts and 1-3 since missing a start with a tight hamstring. Clayton Kershaw was on an amazing roll in the middle of the season, but he's winless since July 18. For sheer consistency, Randy Wolf has led the staff and has five wins since the All-Star break.
Billingsley looked untouchable in the early going but seemed to lose his edge for only one pitch and it cost him two runs.
Perfect with one out in the fifth, he allowed a double to left-center by Miguel Montero and, apparently attempting to get ahead of the next batter with his first pitch out of the stretch, a cutter he said drifted back over the plate that Allen launched for a two-run homer.
"Well, I'm not concerned. I thought he was great today," Torre said. "That one inning he gave up the double and the home run, bang, bang. The other two runs they scored were a little weird, the balls were hitting the wrong side of the infield, made an error, stuff like that.
"I thought his stuff was good. I thought he got frustrated, too, after having such an efficient first part of the game, but I thought mechanically he was back where he should be tonight. Today was a step forward for certain."
Billingsley agreed with Torre's portrayal of the weird last two runs but disagreed with the frustration part of the analysis.
"I wasn't frustrated. I threw the ball well," Billingsley said. "I came back in here and looked at the pitches. Montero's double almost hit the dirt. It was down and off the plate. He hit a good pitch.
"Really, one mistake pitch that Allen hit. You can't do anything about it. That's the way the game goes. I felt a lot better today."
The inning got worse. Alex Romero singled up the middle. With two outs, Scherzer bounced a single to left. Stephen Drew and Gerardo Parra followed with infield RBI singles, a throwing error by shortstop Rafael Furcal making one of the runs unearned.
Furcal had a key drag-bunt single in the eighth to set up Ramirez's RBI single in a rally started by pinch-hitter Juan Pierre's leadoff walk.
"In the clubhouse, there's a lot of frustrated people," Torre said. "We're going to break out. Right now, everybody is aware they're not producing and they're squeezing the bats a little."
Torre started newcomer Ronnie Belliard at third base to rest Casey Blake, who is 3-for-30 in his past eight games.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.