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SAN FRANCISCO 7, DODGERS 2

Dodgers' Chad Billingsley has another poor outing in loss to Giants

All-Star is winless in his last five starts and has posted a 5.63 earned-run average over his last 12.

September 14, 2009|DYLAN HERNANDEZ | ON THE DODGERS

SAN FRANCISCO — The season is winding down, which means the Dodgers are moving ever closer to securing the right to play in October.

It also means that Chad Billingsley doesn't have much time left to straighten himself out and, assuming the Dodgers don't collapse magnificently down the final stretch, earn the place in the team's postseason rotation that was assumed to be his not so long ago.

Between the deep breaths he took after a 7-2 defeat to the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on Sunday, Billingsley had trouble finding the right words when talking about how his All-Star season has turned into something that might have to be cleansed from his memory this winter.

"I don't even know how to explain it," said Billingsley, who lost for the fourth time in five starts, giving up three runs and eight hits in four innings.

The Dodgers have 18 games remaining on their schedule, which means Billingsley has three or four more starts in the regular season, depending on how Manager Joe Torre decides to use a six-man rotation in a calendar that has three off days.

While Billingsley is looking to recover from his latest setback, the Dodgers find themselves in the odd position of aiming to rebound from winning two of three games in San Francisco.

Series such as this one haven't been the problem. Rather, it's the ones against baseball's minions that have presented issues.

The Dodgers dropped two of three games in a recent series against San Diego and split their last 10 games against Arizona.

And beware. More bad teams are on the way.

The Dodgers open a three-game series today at Dodger Stadium against Pittsburgh, which they visit next week for a four-game set. They will also play three games in Washington next week.

"Sometimes complacency has a way to get in there," Andre Ethier said. "You read the name across the chest too much rather than just going out there and competing."

Facing teams such as San Francisco and Colorado, Ethier said, "you know there's more on the line. They're competing against you for that top spot in the division. You would like to say that there's no difference facing Arizona or San Diego than facing these teams, but they're right on your heels."

Ethier's theory is supported by the facts.

The Dodgers won two of three games in their previous trip here and won two of three in a visit last month to second-place Colorado, which remains three games behind them in the NL West.

But Ethier acknowledged there are dangers to turning the proverbial motor on and off, adding, "Hopefully, we can find the right mix."

Billingsley said something similar, only he sounded less convinced that he would be able to do that.

Billingsley said Sunday that he was frustrated, which he has said several times in the last two months. But he also said he wasn't damaged physically or mentally, which made what happened in San Francisco all the more confounding.

Billingsley gave up at least one hit in every inning he pitched, including a two-run home run to Juan Uribe in the second inning and a run-scoring double to Travis Ishikawa in the fourth.

With the Dodgers trailing by three runs in the top of the fifth inning, Torre pinch-hit for him, ending his day with his pitch count at 70.

He fell to 12-10 and his earned-run average climbed to a season-high 3.99. He has a 5.63 ERA over his last 12 starts.

Billingsley was completely outpitched on this day by Brad Penny, who had a shutout until Russell Martin hit a two-run home run in the seventh inning. But Torre stood behind the kid he called his ace for the first half of the season.

"It's in there somewhere," Torre said. "I know it drives him nuts, there's no question about it, the conscientious kid that he is."

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dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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