This time around, the Dodgers had no problems hitting Ted Lilly.
On their way to a 9-7 victory over the Chicago Cubs that wasn't as close as the score indicated, the Dodgers pounded Lilly for seven runs and seven hits in 32/3 innings Friday night at Dodger Stadium.
When they faced Lilly at Wrigley Field in May, the Dodgers were held scoreless over seven innings in a 1-0 defeat.
Asked what made the difference, James Loney smiled and said, "They said he wasn't on the rubber last time."
He was referring to how Dodgers third baseman Casey Blake unsuccessfully tried to persuade the umpire to reprimand Lilly for allegedly starting his windup on some pitches from the front of the rubber.
Loney laughed and quickly backtracked.
"He's good when he's on the rubber too," Loney said.
Smart move. Why upset someone who might be in your clubhouse later in the year?
With Cliff Lee traded to the Texas Rangers and no longer on the market, the Dodgers could find themselves turning their attention to Lilly, or someone like him.
Lilly plays for a team that is 11 games under .500 and 10½ games out of first place. He is in the final year of a four-year, $40-million contract, meaning that he would probably be available at the trade deadline. At 34, he has the experience coveted by Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti and Manager Joe Torre. And with less than $6 million remaining on his contract, he remains somewhat affordable.
However, consistency has been an issue. In four of his last six starts, Lilly has held the opposition to one or fewer runs. He pitched eight innings in two of those games.
But when Lilly has been bad, he's been downright awful — as was the case Friday, and five days earlier when he gave up nine runs in 662/37 innings in a loss to the Reds.
Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley walked two batters in the second inning, which resulted in the Cubs' taking a 1-0 lead, but the Dodgers immediately struck back.
Russell Martin hit his first home run in almost two months, a three-run shot that put the Dodgers ahead, 3-1.
The Dodgers took advantage of a throwing error by Lilly to add three more runs in the third inning, as Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp and Blake drove in runs.
Lilly was knocked out of the game an inning later when Ethier singled to right to drive in Xavier Paul. The Dodgers were up, 7-2.
The lead made things easier for Billingsley, who overcame some shaky moments to pitch into the eighth inning.
Billingsley struck out nine and walked four over seven-plus innings to improve his record to 7-4. He was charged with four runs and seven hits.
The victory was Billingsley's first in six starts. The last time he won was on May 26 — against the Cubs, in Chicago.
"It was nice pitching with a comfortable lead," Billingsley said.
But what the sizable advantage also did was expose concerns Torre has about his bullpen.
With the Dodgers holding a 9-5 lead in the ninth inning, Torre called on All-Star closer Jonathan Broxton to replace Justin Miller with none out and a man on first.
"Two-three-four-five — that's probably the reason," Torre said, referring to the part of the Cubs' lineup that was coming up. "If there were two outs, then you let it become a save situation."
Broxton forced Ryan Theriot to ground out and struck out Derrek Lee, but served up a run-scoring triple to Aramis Ramirez. A single by Marlon Byrd moved the Cubs to within 9-7, but Broxton struck out Tyler Colvin to end the game.
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