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ARIZONA 4, DODGERS 1

It falls apart quickly for Chad Billingsley

He's perfect for four innings, then Diamondbacks break it open in fifth.

September 03, 2009|DYLAN HERNANDEZ | ON THE DODGERS

Chad Billingsley took four steps forward Wednesday night at Dodger Stadium -- and one massive step back.

For the first four innings of the Dodgers' 4-1 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks, Billingsley was perfect.

Twelve up, twelve down.

Nine first-pitch strikes.

Forty-four total pitches.

Then the trap door opened, dropping Billingsley into a fifth inning that was as miserable as his first four were brilliant.

Charged with four runs and six hits, the 25-year-old All-Star put the Dodgers at a deficit that their offense couldn't make up with Max Scherzer on the mound for the Diamondbacks.

Scherzer (9-8) held the Dodgers to one run and seven hits over a career-high 7 2/3 innings, touching 97 mph on the stadium radar gun.

The Dodgers' lead over the Colorado Rockies in the National League West was cut to 4 1/2 games, as the Rockies claimed a 5-2 victory over the New York Mets.

The third-place San Francisco Giants moved to within 5 1/2 games of first place, as former Dodger Brad Penny tossed eight scoreless innings in a 4-0 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies.

For Billingsley (12-9), who went six innings, the loss was his third in a row.

He has won only three of his last 14 starts and has an earned-run average of 5.18 over that span.

Manager Joe Torre has emphasized the power of positive thinking to his sensitive starter and he remained on message Wednesday night.

"I'm not concerned," Torre said. "I thought he was great tonight."

Torre said something similar in late July when Billingsley threw five shutout innings in St. Louis, only to be whacked for six runs in the sixth inning.

Torre said he would speak to Billingsley today, not to console him but to remind him of how dominant he was for four innings.

"Because today was a step forward for certain," Torre said.

If Billingsley was honest when he spoke Wednesday night, then he won't need the pep talk, as he denied that anything was wrong with him.

"Tonight was the best I've felt in a while," he said. "I had my off-speed pitches. I worked both sides of the plate."

Of the fifth inning in particular, he said, "All of the pitches were quality. None of them were left up. There's nothing you can do about it. That's the way this game is."

The pitch that Miguel Montero hit for a double to left-center to start the Diamondbacks' surge was low and away, Billingsley noted.

Torre pointed out how the pitch that Brandon Allen blasted halfway up the right-field pavilion for a two-run home run was the first pitch that Billingsley threw out of the stretch.

"The other two runs they scored were kind of weird," Torre said.

Scherzer hit a two-out single to left that moved Alex Romero to third.

Romero scored when shortstop Rafael Furcal fielded a grounder by Stephen Drew and made a rushed throw to second to get a force that sailed past Orlando Hudson. Scherzer went to third on Furcal's error and scored on a dribbler to third by Gerardo Parra.

Three of the four runs scored by the Diamondbacks were earned.

The 4-0 cushion was more than enough for Scherzer, who faced one batter more than the minimum through five innings.

Manny Ramirez left four men on base in his first three at-bats, including two in scoring position. Ramirez connected in his fourth at-bat, driving a two-out single to center in the eighth inning that knocked in Juan Pierre for the Dodgers' only run.

The Dodgers were one for six with men in scoring position and are two for 19 in such situations in this series, which concludes today.

Again, Torre summoned his inner Tony Robbins.

"It's going to change," Torre said. "We're too good of a production team to continue doing this. We're going to break out and start scoring some runs on a regular basis."

--

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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