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Ethier expands his comfort zone

May 11, 2010|Jim Peltz

PHOENIX — Andre Ethier grew up in Phoenix, still lives here and looks forward to seeing family and friends each time the Dodgers play at Chase Field.

So combine that comfort level with Ethier's National League-leading batting average when the right fielder arrived in the Valley of the Sun and chances were good that he'd keep hitting.

Ethier slugged two doubles, including one that scored two runs, and Chad Billingsley and the Dodgers bullpen limited the Arizona Diamondbacks to four hits Monday to lead the Dodgers, 7-3, for their second consecutive win.

Ethier, who had three hits and lifted his overage to .393, gave part of the credit to batting in front of slugger Manny Ramirez.

"You get a lot of pitches to hit when he's hitting behind you," said Ethier, who has 34 runs batted in. "I've become a little bit smarter with my [batting] approach and my swing, and I know my swing a lot better."

Although Billingsley (3-2) got the victory, the right-hander had a somewhat uneven night. He gave up only the three hits but one was a solo home run by Chris Young. Billingsley struck out seven but walked four.

His night could have been worse. With a 4-1 lead in the sixth inning, he walked Adam LaRoche and gave up a double to Stephen Drew.

Manager Joe Torre pulled Billingsley and reliever Ronald Belisario walked Young to load the bases. Cole Gillespie grounded into a fielder's choice that drove in LaRoche, but Belisario got Chris Snyder to ground out to limit the damage.

"I was really mad at myself" for letting Arizona threaten in the inning, Billingsley said. "I had a really good curveball today, mixed my pitches well and I felt good out there."

Torre said Billingsley "got a little wild for a time or two" but "overall threw the ball good. There was a lot more good than anything else tonight."

The teams opened a three-game series at the bottom of the NL West, with Arizona on a three-game losing streak.

With the game-time temperature 79 degrees and the roof open at Chase Field, James Loney got the Dodgers started in the second inning when he hit a solo home run into the left-field stands against starter Rodrigo Lopez (1-2), his third home run.

But Young came back in the same inning and hit a home run on a 2-and-1 pitch from Billingsley, also to left field, to tie the score, 1-1.

The Dodgers retook the lead in the third inning when Russell Martin walked, moved to second base on Ethier's single and scored on Ramirez's single to center field.

Martin walked to lead off the fifth inning. Matt Kemp singled and took second when the Diamondbacks threw to third base for an unsuccessful play on Martin, and Ethier followed with his double that landed at the base of the right-field fence, driving in both runners and giving the Dodgers a 4-1 lead.

The Dodgers scored three runs in the ninth inning when Ethier doubled, Ramirez was intentionally walked and Loney, Casey Blake and Blake DeWitt hit consecutive singles.

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