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Dodgers' win full of quality

Billingsley has first good effort since the All-Star break, Garciaparra gets a clutch hit and Broxton records four-out save in 3-2 win over Nationals.

July 26, 2008|Dylan Hernandez | Times Staff Writer

The Dodgers regained a certain amount of normalcy Friday night at Dodger Stadium, coming back from a seven-game trip to find the broken air-conditioning system in their clubhouse fixed, Juan Pierre activated, and their offense looking, well, the way it has for most of the season.

But the most important restoration project was undertaken on the mound, where Chad Billingsley limited the Washington Nationals to two runs and five hits over 7 2/3 innings to lead the Dodgers to a 3-2 victory that kept them a game back of the first-place Arizona Diamondbacks in the NL West.

Billingsley's performance marked the first quality start since the All-Star game for the Dodgers, whose rotation posted an 0-3 record and 8.77 earned-run average in their first six games out of the break.

"That was pretty much what we expected when we send these guys out there," Manager Joe Torre said. "This sort of reestablished what we are and how we do things."

Billingsley's previous start wasn't a disaster, but it also wasn't inspiring, as he was saddled with a loss in Arizona, where he gave up three runs in 5 2/3 innings.

"Your objective as a starter is to go six, seven, eight innings and still keep the team in the game," Billingsley said. "That's what my focus was on -- really getting quick outs, getting though the first couple of innings quick. That allowed me to get into the eighth inning."

He reached the eighth despite a 27-pitch fifth inning. Billingsley made a fielding error on a weak two-out comebacker by Nationals pitcher John Lannan, forcing him to throw 14 extra pitches to get out of the inning.

The Dodgers' entire run production on this six-hit night came in the sixth inning, which Pierre led off with a single to center. Matt Kemp singled to left and Russell Martin took a pitch on the elbow from Lannan to load the bases.

Jeff Kent lined out to short, but Nomar Garciaparra drove in two runs with a single to left-center. James Loney grounded out weakly to second, but it was enough to push across the run that gave the Dodgers a 3-1 lead.

Billingsley gave up a single to Ryan Zimmerman in the eighth that scored pinch-hitter Ryan Langerhans and cut the Dodgers' lead to 3-2. He was removed with two out and two on, leaving the game in the hands of Jonathan Broxton, who struck out Jesus Flores to end the threat and picked up a four-out save.

Andruw Jones doubled off the wall in left-center in the fifth, but he was 0 for 2 with runners in scoring position, dropping him to .075 in those situations.

"It's not going to happen all of a sudden where he's going to get four hits one game and five hits another game," Torre said. "It's going to have to happen over time."

Because Pierre's return pushed steadily improving Andre Ethier to the bench, Torre said he went out of his way to talk to Ethier and ask him to be patient.

When asked if Jones, who cut short a minor league rehab assignment to rejoin the team when Pierre was hurt, could go back to triple-A Las Vegas to work on his swing now that Pierre was healthy, Torre snapped.

"You know," he said, "when you get your team, why don't you run it the way you want it? I'll do this for a while."

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dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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