Billingsley Responds to Challenge

With a threat of being replaced in the starting rotation, Chad Billingsley (4-3) made the best major league start of his young career, allowing three hits over seven innings and striking out a career- and team-high nine as the Dodgers continued their remarkable run with a 4-0 victory, their 17th win in their last 18 starts. Brett Tomko had nine strikeouts earlier this season.

Young Billingsley was told by manager Grady Little he would determine after the Tuesday night start if he remained in the rotation. He had just come off a start in which he allowed more walks than hits although he still got the win in five innings.

He entered the game having walked 47 in 61.1 innings, including six in his previous outing. He didn't walk a batter until Joe Borchard drew a walk with two outs in the seventh.

Billingsley had allowed three runs total over his three previous starts but was leaving the games after five innings, putting stress on the bullpen. "We have options in Aaron Sele out in the bullpen, but we're going to put people out there with a better chance to win the game."

It's safe to say he will start next week against San Diego after his 12th big league start saw him strike out a career-best nine and walk one before being lifted for a pinch-hitter. The right-hander threw 106 pitches - 68 for strikes. He had four straight 1-2-3 innings from the second through the fifth.

The Dodgers' 17-1 run began with Billingsley's first win at Dodger Stadium. He allowed one run through six innings in Los Angeles' 13-1 win over Washington.

The Dodgers' had lost 13 of their first 14 games following the All-Star break and are now on the franchise's best run in 107 years. No team in club history had won 17 of 18 since the Brooklyn Superbas went 20-1 during one stretch in 1899.

Kenny Lofton provided the pitching staff all the runs they would need when he lined an RBI double to snap a scoreless tie in the seventh.

Jonathan Broxton and Aaron Sele each added a hitless inning to complete Los Angeles' seventh shutout this season. The Marlins were held to a season-low three hits.

Florida rookie Anibal Sanchez stopped the Dodgers on three hits over the first six innings, but they broke through against three relievers in the seventh.

Sanchez had retired 11 of the first 12 batters he had faced until and Drew dropped a two-out double down the left field line in the fourth.

The Dodgers had loaded the bases against him with two out in the fifth but Lofton hit a soft fly to left to end the inning. They had two on with none out in the sixth, but Sanchez retired the next three Dodgers in order.

Russell Martin singled off Randy Messenger (1-7) in the seventh and after being bunted to second, Rafael Furcal drew a walk.

Lofton lined a shot down the left-field line to score Martin. Messenger then intentionally walked Nomar Garciaparra to load the bases, but J.D. Drew hit into a forceout to drive in Furcal. Jeff Kent and Andre Ethier followed with RBI singles.

Hanley Ramirez singled to open the game and was nailed at second attempting to steal by Martin. It was just the eighth time Ramirez has been caught in 44 attempts this season.

Billingsley retired his next 14 batters before Miguel Olivo and Alfredo Amezaga singled to start the sixth. Billingsley pitched out of trouble by striking out two of the next three batters.
  Score by innings
Florida     000 000 000-0
Los Angeles 000 000 40x-4

  Dodgers      ab r h bi ave
Furcal, SS      3 1 0 0 .286
Lofton, CF      4 1 2 1 .315
 Repko, CF      0 0 0 0 .255
Garciaparra, 1B 3 0 0 2 .328
  Sele, P       0 0 0 0 .208
Drew, RF        3 1 1 1 .278
Kent, 2B        4 0 1 1 .259
Ethier, LF      4 0 1 0 .343
Betemit, 3B     3 0 1 0 .278
Martin, C       4 1 2 0 .303
Billingsley, P  2 0 0 0 .056
 Martinez, PH   0 0 0 0 .296
 Broxton, P     0 0 0 0 .000
 Loney, PH-1B   1 0 0 0 .268
    Totals     31 4 8 4
    Florida    30 0 3 0

  2B- Drew (23, Sanchez), 
Lofton (9). RBI- Lofton (29), 
Drew (66), Kent (49), Ethier 
(48). S- Martinez.LOB- Los 
Angeles 11, Florida 4.

  Dodgers         in h r-er bb so era
Billingsley (4-3) 7.0 3 0-0 1 9 3.16
Broxton           1.0 0 0-0 0 2 2.77
Sele              1.0 0 0-0 0 0 3.93
 WP- Broxton. T- 2:35. Att- 47,960.
Lead Moves to 3 1/2--With the win with Dodgers put a little more distance between themselves and the rest of the division, now leading San Diego by 3.1/2 games. The standngs:
  N.L. West     w-l     pct   gb
Los Angeles     64-56  .533   -- 
San Diego       60-59  .504  3.5
Arizona         59-59  .500  4.0
Colorado        58-60  .492  5.0
San Francisco   56-63  .471  7.5
Werth to be 'Good as New'-- Jayson Werth underwent surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, where they repaired a split tear in the ultra-triquetral ligament. The procedure, along with the removal of scar tissue, will keep Werth in a cast that extends above his elbow for about six weeks. He will begin physical therapy at that point and should be ready for spring training. Werth's left wrist was broken during 2005 spring training when he was hit by a pitch n his first at-bat. He but had constant pain while swinging the bat limited him to 102 games and he underwent another surgery after the season. Werth hit .262 with 16 home runs as he helped the Dodgers win the NL West championship in 2004, but it is unknown if he'll get a chance to play for the Dodgers again. His contract with the team expires at the end of the season.

Dodger Blue Notes-- Through April and May while recovering from knee surgery, with a sore shoulder, a jammed left middle finger, Rafael Furcal was hitting .229. But since May 1, Furcal has more hits than any National Leaguer other than Philadelphia's Chase Utley, and the Dodgers are learning what Atlanta learned in Furcal's six seasons there. Few leadoff men hit harder, run faster or carry an offense better. …The Dodgers bullpen had a 1.66 ERA coming into the game and added a pair of scoreless innings to the total. The offense is batting .299 and had scored averaged 5.9 runs per game.…Kenny Lofton passed Maury Wills Monday night with his 587th steal. Lofton is now in 17th place on the all-time major league list. The Dodgers are 14-0 with Wilson Betemit in the starting lineup. They acquired the 26-year-old switch-hitter from the Braves on July 28 for RHP Danys Baez, INF Willy Aybar and cash. The Dodgers wrap up a stunning homestand this afternoon with Mark Hendrickson (5-12, 4.05 ERA) facing Florida rookie Josh Johnson (10-6, 2.69).