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One pitch hurts Chad Billingsley, Dodgers

He gives up one hit, a three-run homer to Ryan Zimmerman, and Nationals win in the ninth.


WASHINGTON — The man behind the plate appeared to be more bothered by the pitch than the man who threw it.

"Just that one pitch," Dodgers catcher Russell Martin said, shaking his head. "If you take away that one pitch, it's a gem."

The pitch -- a breaking ball that didn't break -- was hit into the Dodgers' bullpen by Ryan Zimmerman.

Zimmerman's three-run home run in the sixth inning accounted for the only hit charged to Billingsley in the Dodgers' 5-4 loss to the Washington Nationals on Wednesday.

The homer tied the score, 3-3, and extended Billingsley's winless streak to six starts.

It ended the slumping All-Star's bid for a no-hitter, as well as his night, as Manager Joe Torre pinch-hit for him in the top of the seventh.

"I wish I could've grabbed the bat before he started swinging," Martin said of Zimmerman.

Billingsley's final line: six innings, three runs, one hit, four walks and nine strikeouts.

While the walk-off loss kept the Dodgers' magic number to secure a playoff berth at two, the overwhelming sentiment in the clubhouse was one of relief. Billingsley took a step forward, however small, and Orlando Hudson's surgically repaired wrist appeared to have survived a tumble down the first-base line that forced the second baseman out of the game.

For his part, Billingsley said he was pleased with the way his night unfolded.

The start was his first in nine days, as Torre opted not to start him in the Dodgers' series against San Francisco last weekend.

Billingsley retired the first 11 batters he faced, striking out six. He walked two batters in the fourth inning but struck out Elijah Dukes to preserve the Dodgers' 1-0 lead.

Two more walks in the sixth inning set up Zimmerman's home run.

Billingsley laughed when asked whether he was aware that he was throwing a no-hitter.

"It wasn't on my mind, the way things have been going," he said.

Martin had trouble letting go of Zimmerman's home run.

Martin, Billingsley's catcher since their days in rookie ball, said he wanted him to get the win.

Martin said he had no doubts Billingsley would be back in All-Star form in time for the postseason.

"He'll be there," Martin said. "I'm not worried about it. I know Chad. He's tough enough."

Asked about questions regarding Billingsley's mental durability, Martin replied, "They don't know him as much as I know him. I don't think anybody knows him as much as I know him. He's always been a competitor.

"Just seeing him pitch today, it made me realize again how good he is, really."

What wasn't good was the Dodgers' defense. They let the Nationals take a 4-3 lead in an error-filled eighth inning.

Miscommunication in the outfield resulted in a fly ball dropping between Matt Kemp and Manny Ramirez to put men on first and second. Ramirez said that he was telling Kemp that Cristian Guzman, who was on first, would be tagging up but Kemp thought he was calling him off the ball.

Hudson had a chance to make an inning-ending double play -- he fielded a grounder by Dukes and got a force at second -- but his wide throw to first base took James Loney off the bag and Guzman scored.

"I had no grip on it," Hudson said.

The Dodgers tied the score in the top of the ninth, but reliever James McDonald gave up a leadoff single to Justin Maxwell, who later stole third and scored on a sacrifice fly to right that was dropped by Andre Ethier.


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