Given a skimpy 2-0 lead in the third inning, if you listened closely, you could hear the ghosts of 1962 whispering, "There's your runs, Sandy, hold on to them."
And he did just that until he tired in the seventh inning and left with the bases loaded and one out. Joe Beimel got out of the mess with just one run scoring and, although plagued by wildness, Jonathan Broxton and Takashi Saito tight-roped their way to a 3-1 win.
Billingsley's win was his first since beating the Reds 4-1 in Dodger Stadium on May 20, back when the lineup and the rotation had a completely different look.
"Joe did a good job," Torre said in praise of Beimel. "He doesn't melt. He comes in and falls behind 2-0, but he knows exactly what he wants to do. He's been terrific for us there."
Takashi Saito struck out a pair in the ninth while getting his ninth save in 12 chances. The right-hander has gotten 13 of his last 15 outs by strikeout.
Saito said he is not exactly sure of the reason why he has been getting so many strikeouts. Through a translator he said, "I don't know if strikeouts are necessarily good or bad. While I've been striking guys out, runs have been scoring."
Los Angeles got on the board on RBI doubles by Juan Pierre and Russell Martin. Angel Berroa walked in the third, was bunted to second by Billingsley and scored on a double by Pierre. In the fourth, Jeff Kent walked and scored on Martin's double. Kent also doubled home a run in the eighth, his third hit of the game.
The three-run effort topped the 2.4 runs per game the Dodgers had averaged during the five-game losing streak.
The game started seven minutes late because of on-field ceremonies honoring Ken Griffy Jr.s 600th home run. The 38-year-old outfielder became the sixth to reach the mark last week in Florida. Griffey, out of the lineup because of illness, was given a rousing ovation after the ceremonies, then pinch-hit in the ninth representing the tying run and struck out.
Sic transit gloria mundi. (Thus passes the glory of the world).
Broxton had taken over from Beimel in the eighth and worked around a pair of walks before extracting himself from the jam he had made for himself.
Saito, who's struggles mirror the team's, began the ninth by falling behind 3-1 to Joey Votto, who fouled off five pitches in a row until he lined Saito's 10th pitch into left field for a single as Torre squirmed in the dugout.
At one point he seemed to leave the dugout and go down the ramp into the clubhouse. One wag watching the game said, "Torre is going home" but his friend said, "No, he's going to throw up."
Saito repeatedly stepped off the mound. He did so enough that at one point, Martin visited him to offer a few words of encouragement. "I told him to finish the freaking game, but I said it in a different way," Martin said.
Griffey Jr. fanned and former Dodgers catcher David Ross took a called third strike, giving Saito his 12th strikeout in his last four appearances. Corey Patterson slashed a one-hop grounder to James Loney on Saito's 25th pitch and he gobbled it up and beat the runner to first base for the final out of the game.
Saito has struck out 40 in just over 28 innings. That is more than half the 78 batters he struck out last year, and that took him 64+ innings.
Earlier in the game Loney singled, running his hitting streak to 14 games and 18 of the last 19. In the month of June, Loney is hitting .373 (18-for-51) with four doubles and a triple. The Houston, TX native also boasts a .453 on-base percentage and a .511 slugging percentage during the month and is the only Dodger to appear all 69 of team's contests this season.
The reason for the recent surge?
"I think it's just focusing, seeing good pitches and not over-swinging," said Loney, who went 1-for-4 with a walk in the win. "Before, if I'd get in a hitter's count, I'd try to expect a perfect pitch that I could hit. I would not always get it, but I'd always be swinging."
Tonight's pitching matchup will see RHP Derek Lowe (5-6, 4.03 ERA) facing RHP Aaron Harang (3-9, 4.10 ERA) for Cincinnati.
?Lowe has pitched well enough to win most of the season but in his six defeats, the Dodgers have scored a total of seven runs (1.17 per game). In his last start he allowed the Tigers two earned runs in seven innings, struck out five without a walk and threw 121 pitches. His sinker has been sharp in five consecutive quality starts, but he has only two victories to show for it.
Score by innings Los Angeles 001 100 010-3 Cincinnati 000 000 100-1 Los Angeles ab r h bi ave Pierre lf 4 0 1 1 .278 DeWitt 3b 4 1 1 0 .278 Kent 2b 4 1 3 1 .252 Maza 2b 0 0 0 0 .245 Martin c 3 0 1 1 .311 Loney 1b 4 0 1 0 .296 Kemp cf 4 0 0 0 .292 Ethier rf 3 0 0 0 .277 Berroa ss 3 1 0 0 .174 Billingsley p 2 0 0 0 .077 Beimel p 0 0 0 0 .000 Broxton p 0 0 0 0 .000 Saito p 0 0 0 0 .000 Totals 30 3 7 3 Cincinnati 32 1 6 1 2b hits- Pierre (9), Martin (12), Kent (8). RBI- Pierre (20), Martin (32), Kent (31). S- Billingsley. LOB- Los Angeles 6, Cincinnati 9. Los Angeles in h r-er bb so era Billingsley (5-7) 6.1 5 1-1 3 9 3.54 Beimel 0.2 0 0-0 0 0 1.25 Broxton 1.0 0 0-0 2 1 4.13 Saito (sv 9) 1.0 1 0-0 0 2 2.20 WP- Billingsley. T- 2:53. Att- 26,906.Dodger Blue Notes-- Nomar Garciaparra homered in his first rehab start for Las Vegas. ...Torre said that Rafael Furcal probably won't be back before the All-Star break but Andruw Jones has been hitting at Dodger Stadium as part of his rehab, and is longer dropping the elbow. No word yet on when he might start his minor-league rehab. ...With Kuroda out of the game tonight, Derek Lowe will move up a day and newly-recalled Eric Stults will pitch tomorrow. ...Pierre slammed into the wall in left field to take a hit away from Jay Bruce in the sixth. ...The Dodgers are 5-9 in Chad Billingsley's 14 starts. ... Jeff Kent is batting .309 in his career against Cincinnati. ...Saito has appeared in 26 games this season, but only 11 have been save opportunities.