Dodgers Use Old L.A. Formula to Win

Although the Dodgers don't have all cylinders working at the present time, their offense has few soft spots and over the long haul will put runs on the board. But in order to escape Houston without being swept, they resorted to the tried and true Los Angeles system of pitching and defense to record a 2-0 win behind Chad Billingsley and Jonathan Broxton.

Billingsley, in winning his fourth game of the young season without a loss, was in a word, brilliant. He handled the resurgent Houston lineup with relative ease, allowing three hits -- one after the second inning -- while working into the eighth inning.

After allowing a scratch hit with one out in the eighth, he gave way to Jonathan Broxton who clung tenaciously to the slim 2-0 lead and nailed down the win.

Following his 100th Major League appearance, Billingsley's era slid to 2.05, Broxton's to 1.08. His 4-0 record is the best start for a Dodgers pitcher since Kaz Ishii did it in 2002, and, incidentally, went to 6-0 before losing.

However, the 24-year-old insists he isn't doing anything differently than he did in 2008 when he won 16 games. "I'm pitching the same way I did last year," he said. "If anything it's just a matter of having the confidence and … having a purpose for each pitch."

The Dodgers needed that sort of effort while facing Wandy Rodriguez, a tough lefthander who had fanned 10 in the previous start. He allowed five hits over six innings, including a walk and two singles in the first that allowed Los Angeles a 1-0 lead.

Rafael Furcal walked and Orlando Hudson and Manny Ramirez singled to kick off the game. The next three Dodgers went down meekly and the 1-0 margin reminded some of the Drysdale-Koufax era when runs came dearly and were not to be squandered.

L.A. finally got on the board again in the seventh on an infield single by Matt Kemp and a sharp double into the right field corner by Casey Blake that scored him from first.

Billingsley allowed a first-inning double and a second inning single, using a sharp-breaking curve and a solid fastball to smother a Houston offense that scored 14 runs in the first two games of the series.

He erased the questions about his playoff performances last season against the Phillies and the broken leg he suffered in the off-season. A press box wag suggested that a few other starters might consider breaking a leg after the season.

Big Jonathan Broxton, who has had a world of potential although many questioned his tenacity, who came up with the final five outs while recording his fifth save. He credits his World Baseball Classic experience that seems to have elevated him into the same lofty category as Billingsley.

He ran into trouble in the ninth inning, after taking over in the eighth with one out and a runner at first and shutting the Astros off in order.

Miguel Tejada fisted a single into right field to lead off the ninth and Broxton, known for his 100-mph fastball, displayed a breaking ball that completely baffled both Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee and resulted in strikeouts.

Showing his triple-didgit heater perfectly, he got two strikes on Geoff Blum and then nicked him on the foot with another splitter/cutter although television replays didn't indicate that the ball hit him at all.

He overthrew the breaking ball to Darin Erstad, bouncing it past Russell Martin for a wild pitch and putting the tying run at second base but unruffled, the forced the veteran to roll easily to James Loney at first base.

After the game Houston's Geoff Blum said he had never seen Billingsley like this. "It was electric," he said. "It was crazy. I had actually gotten some good hitting counts and he was still throwing 90 mph, what looked like a slider. His depth is impressive. He had us off-balance all night.

"He didn't make a lot of mistakes and when a pitcher doesn't make a lot of mistakes you don't get a lot of hits," Bourn said. "Simple as that."

He was helped by double plays that ended the second, fifth and sixth innings, including a strikeout-throw out DP in the fifth cutting off a Houston hitting streak that had seen them record 11 hits in each of the previous three games.

Dodgers officials and fans alike were surprised when the club allowed Takaski Saito to leave by free agency and hand Broxton the closer's role this season.

Broxton fought through exactly the sort of situation that in the past would cause him to unravel, but his new maturity allowed him to survive while stranding three runners in scoring position in the final two innings.

A sparkling performance for the quiet young man with the loud fastball.

"The big thing is slowing the game down, especially late in the game," Broxton said, sounding a lot like Joe Torre. "If they get something going, you have to slow it down, step back and just go after the guy in front of you. The more times you are out there pitching in big games like that, the better you become at doing that.

"I'll do whatever it takes to help the team win. Obviously, you have to be smart about it, too. It's a long season, and you don't want to burn yourself out in the first month, because come July and August, the games are going to get bigger. You just have to be selective."

The Dodgers again stumbled with runners in scoring position, finishing the evening 1-for-9 in those important opportunities. They were 0-for-3 in the first inning when it looked like they might break quickly with a solid lead.

Andre Ethier, Russell Martin and James Loney were 0-for-11 until Loney singled up the middle in the top of the ninth inning. The Dodgers finished with eight hits, two each by Hudson (.385) and Ramirez (.345).

' Los Angeles opens a three-game set in Colorado tonight, facing a Rockies team that they swept in Dodger Stadium during their eight-game winning streak.

Pitching matchups:
Tonight: LHP Eric Stults (2-0, 2.61 ERA), who pitched five innings, allowed two runs and gave his club a chance to win the game in his last start. He scattered five hits and kept the ball in the park. He faces RHP Aaron Cook (0-1, 10.22 ERA) who gave up five runs in his last start in Los Angeles. Cook, Colorado's ace last season, had pitched into the sixth inning in two of his first three starts of 2009.
Saturday: James McDonald, 0-1, 5.87 and Ubaldo Jimenez, 1-2, 6.00.
• Sunday: Clayton Kershaw, 0-1, 4.41 and Jason Marquis, 2-1, 4.26.
• Monday: Dodgers (Randy Wolf, 1-1, 4.26) at Giants (TBD), 7:15 p.m. PT

 Score by innings
Los Angeles	100 000 100-2
Houston        	000 000 000-0

 Los Angeles	ab r  h  bi  ave
Furcal ss	3  1  1  0  .254
Hudson 2b	4  0  2  0  .385
Ramirez lf	4  0  2  1  .345
Ethier rf	4  0  0  0  .298
Martin c	4  0  0  0  .226
Loney 1b	4  0  1  0  .262
Kemp cf	        3  1  1  0  .362
Blake 3b	4  0  1  1  .240
Billingsley p	3  0  0  0  .167
 Broxton p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Totals	        33 2 8 2
 Houston	27 0 4 0

 Error- Furcal (3). Two-base hits- Hudson (4),
Blake (3). RBI- Ramirez (12), Blake (11). 
LOB- Los Angeles 6, Houston 6. DP- Hudson, Furcal
and Loney 2; Martin and Furcal.

 Los Angeles	        in  h r-er bb so  era
Billingsley (4-0)	7.1  3  0-0  2  5  2.05
Broxton (sv 5)	        1.2  1  0-0  0  2  1.08
 WP- Broxton. HBP- By Billingsley, by Broxton.
T- 2:53. Att- 26,081.
Wade Ready to Return
Wade threw 20 pitches in an extended spring training game at Camelback Ranch in Arizona, reporting no pain or discomfort, and will throw again Saturday. Depending on how he feels, Wade could skip his Minor League rehab stint and rejoin the Dodgers in San Francisco for a three-game set with the Giants.

Manager Joe Torre said "He seems to be fine, but he feels a little rusty," Torre said of Wade. "We'll do it again Saturday, extended again, and make a decision from there. We'll decide whether he'll join us in San Francisco or at home.

"I'll be more comfortable if we had Cory Wade out there and Kuo pitching the way he did for us last year," Torre said. "I think that once we get whole, the people we have down there will be able to do the job."

"My situation there [Wednesday[ is that we have to get comfortable getting to [closer Jonathan] Broxton. When you have a lead, you have to be able to get it done, and we didn't do it. We outscored everybody at home, so we didn't get exposed."

Dodger Blue Notes-- The game was the last of the season at Minute Maid Park for the Dodgers, who make only one trip to Houston this year. That fact was duly noted by seldom-used Dodgers backup catcher -- and former Astros backstop -- Brad Ausmus, who quipped, "Yep, this is the last time I'll never play here." ...One day after having his 14-game hitting streak snapped, Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp delivered a leadoff single in the seventh inning of Thursday's game against the Astros, then scored the second run of the game on Casey Blake's double. ...After the win, Los Angeles is 1.5 games ahead of the San Diego Padres for first place in the NL West. ...The Dodgers' three sixth-inning home runs in the second game marked the first time Los Angeles went deep three times in the same inning since May 15, 2008, when Andruw Jones, Jeff Kent, and Gary Bennett did so in Milwaukee off Ben Sheets. Manny Ramirez and Andre Ethier went back-to-back together for the first time and it was the first time Dodger teammates did so since Sept. 3, 2008, when Blake DeWitt and Angel Berroa accomplished the feat. ...Los Angeles' 19 homers are tied for first in the NL with the Colorado Rockies. The last time a Dodger team led the league in home runs was 1983. ...On this day in 1958, at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Pee Wee Reese played in his 2,000th career game and Gil Hodges blasted home run No. 300 in just the second night game in the history of the Coliseum. Reese finished with 2,166 games as a Dodger, which is third all-time behind Zack Wheat (2,322) and Bill Russell (2,181).

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