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LAD@PIT: Billingsley silences Bucs over eight frames

PITTSBURGH -- Chad Billingsley has won five straight starts, but his victory on Tuesday night against the Pirates was probably the most meaningful of them all.

That's because his father was in the crowd for, at most, just the second time ever. Billingsley thought his dad might have seen him pitch once as a rookie, but either way, there was no denying how special this outing was. James Billingsley got to see his child throw eight shutout innings against the Pirates, as the Dodgers won, 11-0, in front of 22,729 fans at PNC Park.

"My father was here," Billingsley said. "I think it was just the first or second time he ever got to see me throw, so it was really great to have him in the stands, my parents."

As Billingsley told MLB.com in 2010, poor health is what has kept his father from attending games.

"Cancer, stroke, heart surgery, two inoperable aneurysms in the brain -- you have no idea how much it means that he's still around," Billingsley said then. "He needed surgery. He's been through some tough times. He has his good days and bad days. He needs all kinds of medication -- it's like he has a pharmacy. It's tough for him to travel. He pretty much is limited to around the Midwest. It's hard for him to be in crowds."

But there the elder Billingsley was on Tuesday night, bearing witness to a brilliant effort by his son -- the latest in an increasingly long line of them -- and a dynamic performance by the Dodgers' offense, as they won their fifth game out of the past six.

The Dodgers remained tied for first place in the National League West with the Giants, who beat the Nationals, 6-1.

Billingsley allowed five hits over his eight innings, striking out five and walking one. In five starts since the All-Star break, he's 5-0 with a 1.56 ERA.

"Tonight, I shouldn't say 'easiest,' but he seemed the smoothest," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "He didn't fight himself at all, didn't overthrow, just had nice touch and feel, used his slowing breaking ball, used a little cutter, threw some sliders, threw some changeups. He just seemed to be kind of in control all night."

Billingsley's supporting cast helped his effort by tying a season high for runs in a game. The Dodgers also scored 11 times on May 13 against the Rockies at home.

Their biggest innings on Tuesday were the fourth and ninth. Los Angeles plated five runs in the final frame -- which saw RBI hits by Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Hanley Ramirez -- and three runs in the fourth inning, when James Loney and Luis Cruz drove in runners.

Cruz and Ramirez each picked up three hits. The middle-infield duo also combined for five RBIs.

"Cruz had a great day at the plate. All of them had a pretty good day at the plate," Billingsley said.

The Dodgers handed Pirates starter Kevin Correia a loss, something he hadn't been charged with since June 13. The right-hander was hit for six runs -- five earned -- over six innings.

On a night when his opposition was dominant, Correia didn't measure up. Few can when faced with a performance like the one Billingsley put forth on Tuesday.

"I didn't really throw a whole lot of other secondary pitches," Billingsley said. "I mixed them in, but we got on them there in the middle innings, and I was just trying to throw quality fastballs down and away. [I] took advantage of their aggressiveness, and got some quick innings and quick outs."

"He shut us down," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "He mixed his pitches well. He kept the ball down and used his fastball, cutter, breaking ball -- the opportunities we had, we weren't able to capitalize on. Basically, they got the start they needed from him."

The Dodgers also scored two runs in the sixth inning and one in the third. A few minutes after a routine ground ball bounced through his legs in the fifth, Ramirez pelted a liner into left in the sixth. He scored on a single by Cruz, which was followed by a run-scoring sacrifice fly by A.J. Ellis.

The Dodgers' first run came in the third inning. After Cruz led off with a liner to left, Ellis followed by reaching on a walk, and both men advanced on a sacrifice bunt by Billingsley. The next hitter, Shane Victorino, drove in Cruz with a groundout for his 400th career RBI, one night after he knocked in three.

Cruz, who came into Tuesday with a .255 average over 32 games this season, had only one prior three-hit game in his career. It came on Sept. 12, 2008, when he was still with Pittsburgh and his Pirates beat the Cardinals, 10-2. Cruz played for the Pirates from 2008-09.

"He's been good. Cruz has been good since he came up," Mattingly said. "The ball jumps off this kid's bat. I mean, it takes off. He hits it, they stay hit. He's kind of been gap to gap. He's been really good. It's been nice for us."

A resident of Robesonia, Pa., Billingsley continued his streak of excellence against the Pirates, moving his record against them to 7-1 and lowering his ERA to 3.25.

"Maybe it's Pennsylvania. I know he lives here, so maybe that's it," Mattingly said. "When you've had success against a club, it's a good feeling. If you've pitched good in a building or swung the bat good in a building, you always feel good going back there."

And as Billingsley demonstrated on Tuesday night, it doesn't hurt to have your father in the building, either.

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