Billingsley Gets an A+ For Emergency Work

Chad Billingsley got a surprise start after Derek Lowe caught a Jon Broxton toss on his pitching hand while playing catch, and the youngster battled through six innings to give the Dodgers a 6-1 victory and vault them back into the wild card race, tied at 2 1/2 games behind the Padres and Phillies.

When Lowe was asked if he would start warming up with someone who didn't throw as hard as Broxton, he replied, "I think they need to get me a red jersey like in the NFL and have somebody catch the ball for me."

Not scheduled to pitch, Billingsley threw a bullpen 48 hours earlier but took the ball without hesitation when Lowe was unable to answer the bell. He fought his way out of a pair of bases-loaded jams, throwing 109 pitches and limited San Diego to one run over six innings.

Now 11-4, Billingsley didn't miss a beat, allowing five hits while walking four and striking out five. He is now 4-0 with a 1.05 ERA against the Padres in 25.2 innings this season. "That's just Billingsley. He doesn't back down ever," catcher Russell Martin said. "He always wants the ball."

"The starting pitching sets the tone for any big series, and Billingsley again did it to us," Padres manager Bud Black said after the game. "We had him against the ropes a couple of times, but couldn't break through. He wasn't quite as sharp as we've seen him and his command was a little off, but he made some pitches and wiggled out of some jams, which is a testament to him."

James Loney went 3-for-4 with a double and a home run and now has five homers in the past six games, proving that he might -- just might -- have enough power to play a corner infield position. Loney becomes the first Dodger to clout five in six contests since Hee-Seop Choi blasted seven in 2005. Loney is among the NL rookie leaders in average, hits, homers, RBI, doubles and extra base hits while hitting .423 (30-for-71) with runners in scoring position.

So with the rising of the sun, we find the Dodgers have moved into a three-way tie for second place in the wild card, 2 1/2 games behind the Padres and Phillies.

Los Angeles scored their first run in the second inning when Loney doubled and took second when the ball escaped Brian Giles in the corner for an error. He scored on Martin's ground ball to second on a 3-0 pitch.

Billingsley walked Terrmel Sledge to load the bases in the second inning, but pitcher Justin Germano popped to first. He gave up a leadoff double to Khalil Greene in the fourth and then walked Kevin Kouzmanoff and Michael Barrett. He battled out of the jam with only one run scoring when Sledge hit into a double play and Germano on a strike out.

Green and Kouzmanoff singled in the sixth before Billingsley retired Barrett on a liner to center and Sledge on a grounder to second. In all, the Padres left an even dozen runners on base.

The Dodgers got another run in the third when Rafael Furcal singled with one out, stole second and scored on Pierre's single. Left fielder Terrmel Sledge fumbled Pierre's hit and what might have been a photo finish at the plate was erased.

After Matt Kemp had singled, Loney slugged a two-run shot into the right field seats for the fifth time in six games and a 4-1 Los Angeles lead. Jeff Kent chipped in with his 20th homer, a solo shot in the sixth. Loney singled and scored on Martin's double to close out the scoring.

Scott Proctor, Joe Beimel, Jonathan Broxton and Rudy Seanez held San Diego to three singles over the final three innings.

The Dodgers won for just the third time in their last 11 games against the Padres and trail Arizona by six games.

Loney's three hits boosted his batting average to .322. "I don't go out there to try and hit a home run. I'm just trying to hit the ball," said the 23-year-old Loney, who has 11 homers in 276 at-bats this season. He had four in 48 games for the Dodgers last season, and had only 35 in 529 minor league games.

"This guy hits the ball hard enough for some of them to leave the ballpark," Little said. "He's just a young man. He's stronger this year than he was last year, and he'll be stronger next year than he is this year."

Tonight's contest is unique in that David Wells, who was released by the Padres in August will face Greg Maddux, who pitched for the Dodgers last year, will be rolling in the dust in a game the Dodgers must win.

"It pretty much feels like a playoff atmosphere," Martin said. "You can't think about what's ahead of you. You've got to think about what's in front of you."

Score by Innings San Diego 000 100 000-1 Los Angeles 011 202 00x-6 Los Angeles ab r h bi ave Furcal ss 4 1 1 0 .271 Pierre cf 4 0 2 1 .292 Kemp rf 4 1 1 0 .335 Kent 2b 4 1 1 1 .297 Martinez 3b 0 0 0 0 .192 Loney 1b 4 3 3 2 .322 Martin c 4 0 1 2 .297 Abreu 3b-2b 3 0 0 0 .277 Billingsley p 2 0 0 0 .097 Proctor p 0 0 0 0 .000 Beimel p 0 0 0 0 .000 Broxton p 0 0 0 0 .000 Seanez p 0 0 0 0 .000 Totals 32 6 10 6 San Diego 34 1 8 0 2B- Loney (16), Pierre (22). Martin (31), Ethier (29). HR- Loney (11), Kent (20). RBI- Martin 2 (83), Pierre (37), Loney 2 (48), Kent (78). LOB- Los Angeles 3, San Diego 12. SB- Furcal (18), Kemp (10). CS- Pierre (12). DP- Kent, Furcal and Loney. Los Angles in h r-er bb so era Billingsley (11-4) 6.0 5 1-1 4 5 3.14 Proctor 0.2 1 0-0 1 1 3.69 Beimel 0.1 0 0-0 0 0 3.98 Broxton 1.0 1 0-0 0 1 2.40 Seanez 1.0 1 0-0 0 1 3.89 HBP- by Broxton. T- 2:49. Att-43,699.

Dodger Blue Notes-- Hong-Chih Kuo will not pitch competitively again this season, trainer Stan Conte said. Kuo underwent elbow surgery in July. . . . Infield prospect Ivan De Jesus, who hit .287 at Class-A Inland Valley, underwent surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb last week. . . . Third baseman Andy LaRoche complained of back pain after batting practice Tuesday but was available to pinch hit. ...Kent has hit 20 or more homers in 12 seasons, and 365 in his career. ... The Padres are 10-7 against the Dodgers this season after winning 13 of the 18 games between the teams last year. ... Little hopes Lowe will be able to pitch Saturday in the second game of a three-game series against Arizona. ... San Diego's Mike Cameron struck out five times -- three against Billingsley. ...Martin cracked his 31st double of the year, giving him 57 two-baggers in his first two big league seasons, which is tied with Eric Karros for the most in L.A. Dodger history over that time. Andre Ethier doubled one batter after Martin and now has 49 in his first two campaigns, good for fourth on the list, one behind Raul Mondesi. ...The Dodgers announced today a season-long celebration in 2008 in honor of the team's 50th Anniversary in Los Angeles. Among the highlights were the announcement of a float in the Rose Parade, a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and commissioned artwork from Stephen Holland. Former Dodgers in attendance included Hall of Famers Duke Snider and Tommy Lasorda, Ron Cey, Eric Davis, Steve Garvey, Fernando Valenzuela, "Sweet" Lou Johnson, Rick Monday, Manny Mota, Don Newcombe, Ed Roebuck, Maury Wills and Steve Yeager. To commemorate the announcement, Snider threw out the first pitch prior to the game.

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