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07/22/10 2:30 AM ET
Billingsley's gem ends Dodgers' slide
With Mattingly at helm, LA snags first second-half win
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
LOS ANGELES -- Don Mattingly has learned that the secret to success as a manager is making no trips to the mound. An embarrassed Mattingly bungled the assignment after taking over for the ejected Joe Torre Tuesday night, visiting the mound twice in a matter of seconds and triggering a rules fiasco that led directly to a crushing loss. Subbing for the suspended Torre on Wednesday night, Mattingly steered clear of the mound and just let Chad Billingsley go all the way in a five-hit, 125-pitch shutout as the Dodgers beat the Giants, 2-0, to end a six-game losing streak and give Mattingly his first win as a Dodgers manager. "That's what we needed," said Mattingly, whose role as managerial heir-apparent is taking on more urgency with Torre increasingly hinting lately that this could be his final season as Dodgers manager. "It feels good for the club, not so much for me. When you get pitching like that, it's pretty easy." Not that the Dodgers would really know. The days of Sandy Koufax throwing 27 complete games a year is long ago and far away. This was the staff's first complete game of the season, matching the staff total of last year. It was Billingsley's second career shutout and third complete game. His previous shutout also came against the Giants July 30, 2008. "I was thinking about it, it was around the same time, it was against these guys, it's always nice to win against the Giants," Billingsley said. "It's always nice to be the guy who gets the stop. Any one of our guys who goes out there, they try to do the same thing. We've been struggling lately, we just need to win a few games, get on a roll and there's a lot of season left." Casey Blake provided the offense. Blake, who came into the game batting .143 since the All-Star break, tucked a fly ball just inside the left-field foul pole leading off the second inning for his 10th homer of the season. In the eighth inning, after Rafael Furcal singled and Andre Ethier walked, Blake singled home Furcal. "It was awesome, especially after last night, I know he felt bad about what happened, you just feel terrible for the guy because you know how bad he feels," Blake said when asked about Mattingly's first win as Dodgers manager."I love that guy, just like Joe you want to play hard for him. It's nice to get that under his belt." The 125 pitches were a career high for Billingsley, although he said he threw as many as 180 in high school. He had to pitch out of jams in the third, fourth, fifth and sixth innings, when he held the Giants 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position. "I stuck with my game plan and stayed down in the zone," Billingsley said. "I always try to do that, but some days it just doesn't happen." The Dodgers let Billingsley go the distance in part because he will get an extra day of rest before his next start with Monday's day off, and in part because he threw only 67 pitches in his last start. That last start was a four-plus innings mess in St. Louis, when Billingsley was charged with seven runs on 10 hits and no strikeouts for only the second start of his career. He went back to the videotape after that one, working out the kinks in his delivery. Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said Billingsley had fallen back into a habit of rotating his upper body. "When he stays in line, he has better command, but it's more about deception," said Honeycutt. "When he spins off, the hitter sees the ball quicker. He's just so much better with a high release point and he stays in line longer. And he gets good command with the lower part of the zone. That's the key to success." Billingsley recorded 16 groundouts, the toughest one with two outs, runners on first and second and Freddy Sanchez's grounder heading for center field. Billingsley tipped the ball with his glove, second baseman Ronnie Belliard gloved the ball and flipped it with his glove to Furcal for the inning-ending forceout. "He had that cutter going -- a front-door cutter, too, starting in at your hip," said Giants rookie Buster Posey, who extended his hitting streak to 15 games with a single. Billingsley is 8-5, the Dodgers having won four of his last five starts. "If he could just do that every outing, I like our chances," said Blake. "Hopefully this type of effort by Bills can get us going a little bit and boost the confidence of the pitching staff and get us rolling."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.