Reporting from San Francisco — Thirty-three days removed from his last home run, Casey Blake finally hit a ball that left the yard.
"I didn't know what to do," Blake said, jokingly.
Blake's two-run home run in the eighth inning, which lifted the Dodgers to a 4-2 victory over the San Francisco Giants on Monday night at AT&T Park, came at the end of a determined eight-pitch at-bat against Santiago Casilla.
Blake's bat had scars from the encounter, as Casilla's mid-90s fastballs left a series of white indentations on his black Louisville Slugger.
"It was big to get it to at least a full count," Blake said of the at-bat in which he fouled off four pitches. "I had a decent idea he would challenge me with a fastball."
The resolve Blake demonstrated in the at-bat that led to his first homer since May 26 was emblematic of the resiliency the Dodgers showed in recovering from a potentially devastating loss the previous night.
Sunday night, they had blown a four-run lead in the ninth inning and fallen to the New York Yankees in 10 innings, capping the Dodgers' 4-11 performance in interleague play.
But Manager Joe Torre said he sensed that his team was ready to rebound based on how the players were acting during the pregame meeting.
They were joking. Nobody had their head down.
"They were champing at the bit," Torre said.
It didn't hurt that they were back in the National League West, either; the Dodgers are 19-5 against teams in their division after Monday's win.
Perhaps no one was more eager to get back on the field than starting pitcher Chad Billingsley, who was activated Monday from his first-ever stint on the disabled list.
"I was looking to get back out there," Billingsley said.
Making his first start since he was rocked by the Angels on June 11, Billingsley held the Giants to two runs and five hits over six innings.
With the Dodgers able to count Clayton Kershaw and Hiroki Kuroda as their only reliable starters, and with General Manager Ned Colletti saying that any deals the Dodgers make would likely happen later rather than sooner, Billingsley's comeback provided an added lift for a rotation that recently regained the services of Vicente Padilla.
Billingsley had a rough first inning, when he walked leadoff batter Andres Torres, who stole second and scored on a single to right by Aubrey Huff.
But the Dodgers turned the one-run deficit into a 2-1 lead in the third, when Rafael Furcal scored on a sacrifice fly by Andre Ethier and Manny Ramirez drove in Reed Johnson with a double.
The Dodgers' lead held until the sixth inning, when Travis Ishikawa doubled and scored on a single by Freddy Sanchez. A hit by Huff put men on the corners, but Billingsley got Juan Uribe to fly out to right field to keep the score tied, 2-2.
Torre rested four regular starters — Matt Kemp, Russell Martin, James Loney and Blake DeWitt. Martin, Loney and DeWitt had not hit Giants starter Barry Zito well in the past. But the same wasn't true of Kemp, a .457 lifetime hitter against the left-hander.
Still, he was benched for the second consecutive day. Torre said he opted to go with Johnson in center field because he was coming off a three-hit game Sunday. He also said Kemp, hitting .196 this month, was not benched because of physical or disciplinary reasons.
"I'm just giving him another day off," Torre said.
He wouldn't say whether Kemp will be back in the lineup Tuesday.
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