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Chad Billingsley dominant in Dodgers' 6-0 win over San Diego

Billingsley strikes out 11 in 8 1/3 innings, and Andre Ethier has two extra-base hits and drives in four runs against Padres left-handed starter Cory Luebke.

April 06, 2012|By Dylan Hernandez

SAN DIEGO — This was only one game against one of the worst teams in baseball.

But the Dodgers' 6-0 victory over the San Diego Padres at Petco Park on Friday night was the kind of game that offered hope that this year won't be like last.

Resident underachiever Chad Billingsley looked like the dominant mound presence he once appeared destined to become, striking out 11 over 81/3 scoreless innings.

Andre Ethier, who hasn't hit left-handed pitchers with any kind of consistency in recent seasons, had two extra-base hits and drove in four runs against Padres starter Cory Luebke.

"Both of those guys set the tone for us," Manager Don Mattingly said.

Ethier acknowledged that improving his approach against left-handers was a major focus this spring. Over the last four seasons, left-handers held him to a .221 average.

"We put a lot of effort getting back to staying closed and giving me a better shot to have the right approach and right swing towards lefties," Ethier said.

Ethier, who batted fifth instead of his customary fourth, doubled to right-center in his first at-bat against Luebke, driving in Mark Ellis and Juan Rivera to put the Dodgers ahead, 2-0.

Ethier struck out in the third inning but got to Luebke again in the fifth, this time with a triple that scored Matt Kemp and Rivera. The Dodgers' lead increased to 6-0.

Ethier's triple ended Luebke's night. Luebke was charged with six runs (five earned) and nine hits in 42/3 innings.

Fifteen of Ethier's 20 hits in spring training were for extra bases. Told he still couldn't hit a single, Ethier replied, "Or get a hit off a righty."

Ethier, who batted .321 against right-handers last season, was struck out by right-hander Micah Owings in the eighth inning. In his three at-bats against right-handers the previous day, he was hitless.

The six-run advantage was more than enough for Billingsley.

"That was as good as I've seen him start to finish," Padres Manager Bud Black said.

Billingsley spent spring training making adjustments to his delivery, which he thought would improve his consistency. The results in spring training were unsightly as Billingsley posted a 5.91 earned-run average.

Billingsley insisted that the changes were working, saying his pitches had better movement. But he has never been the most credible of sources as he has often maintained that he is pitching well when his numbers indicated otherwise.

But he started the regular season by coming within two outs of his third career shutout. He cut back on the use of his cutter, which was inconsistent during the spring, and threw his slider with greater frequency.

"It was one of those days everything felt really good," Billingsley said.

With his pitch count at 108, Mattingly elected to remove him from the game when he gave up a single to Cameron Maybin with one out in the ninth. Maybin's single was the Padres' third hit of the game.

"I'm not going to let him run up to 120 his first time out," Mattingly said.

Billingsley's performance provided the bullpen with a welcome day off.

With a stomach flu limiting Clayton Kershaw to three innings on opening day, the Dodgers were forced to use five relievers Thursday. They used one, Jamey Wright, on Friday.

Ethier said of Billingsley: "Like our bullpen picked us up yesterday, he picked up our bullpen big time."

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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