Dodgers fall after overcoming tough start
Lineup does its part to come back after Billingsley is hit hard
CINCINNATI -- Dodgers right-hander Chad Billingsley must have been looking forward to facing the Reds, a team he had pitched well against in his career.
In fact, only four pitchers had lower career ERAs against Cincinnati than Billingsley (2.35) entering Tuesday, and three of them own Cy Young Awards.
But following Tuesday night's wild 11-9 loss to Cincinnati, Billingsley was left standing at his locker, answering a lot of questions for which he had few answers.
Billingsley allowed seven runs, four earned, and seven hits in three innings. He did not walk a batter and struck out two in a 56-pitch outing.
"It's not like I'm walking guys," Billingsley said. "I'm going after the hitters and making them beat me. They hit some good pitches. That's baseball. You have those days."
A dramatic Dodgers rally, capped off by Matt Kemp's three-run, game-tying home run in the eighth, helped Billingsley avoid his second defeat. Instead, the righty earned a no-decision.
While the game confirmed the vast potential of the Dodgers' offense, it raised additional concerns.
"We're going to score runs," said Dodgers manager Joe Torre. "We just need to limit the opposition."
It looked like it would be an early night for Reds starter Homer Bailey, who needed 30 pitches to get through the first inning.
The Dodgers loaded the bases against Bailey in the first. On Bailey's 27th pitch, Casey Blake doubled into the gap in left-center, driving in three runs to put the Dodgers ahead, 3-0.
"He was giving us pitches to hit early," said Kemp. "We tried to work the count on him. We stayed patient. In the later innings, we finally got him out of there and got into the bullpen."
With an early three-run lead and considering his past success against Cincinnati, Billingsley appeared to be en route to a victory.
But, after retiring the Reds in order in the first inning, things unraveled.
Brandon Phillips began the second inning with a solo home run to left. Jay Bruce later tripled as the Reds responded with three runs to tie the score.
Billingsley later stepped in front of James Loney to field Bailey's sacrifice-bunt attempt, but his throw sailed over Blake DeWitt's glove, allowing Johnny Gomes to score and the Reds to take the lead.
Billingsley was lifted after the third, and the Reds didn't stop there. Joey Votto homered off reliever Ramon Ortiz to give the Reds a 9-3 lead in the fourth.
"When you get a lead like that, it's a little bit of comfort," said Bailey. "They're one of the best lineups in the National League, and they showed it by coming back."
Manny Ramirez, who returned to the lineup after missing two games with a tight right calf muscle, doubled and scored on Blake's triple in the sixth. DeWitt's RBI single made the score 9-6.
The Dodgers scored four runs in the eighth, eventually tying the score on Kemp's blast. Kemp had already extended his hitting streak to nine games with a single in the third.
"It shows the character of our team," Kemp said. "We kept fighting and made it a game."
But, Paul Janish's RBI single in the bottom of the eighth propelled the Reds to the victory, helping to snap their five-game losing streak.
Following the game, much of the attention centered on Billingsley, a key cog in the Dodgers' starting rotation.
In his last outing on Wednesday, Billingsley allowed six runs on eight hits in 5 2/3 innings in a 9-7 loss to Arizona.
"He's just not locating," said Torre. "He has too good of stuff to get beat around like he did today. I don't think his stuff is any different. There's just a lack of consistency with it."
Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said it's possible that Billingsley is getting too predictable.
"You can't have too many things going through your mind," said Honeycutt. "Sometimes you can overanalyze things instead of going out there and just competing. A lot of the balls stayed flat tonight, caught too much of the plate."
Dodgers right-hander Jon Link, making his Major League debut, pitched two scoreless innings.
Ramon Troncoso (1-1) took the loss, allowing two earned runs in the eighth.
Francisco Cordero pitched a perfect ninth for Cincinnati, notching his fifth save.
Honeycutt reasoned that Billingsley wasn't the first pitcher to have two rough starts, nor will be the last. Billingsley's teammates, meanwhile, remain supportive.
"We have faith in Chad," said Kemp. "He'll bounce back. We all believe that he'll go back out there and get the job done."
Jeff Wallner is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.