Chad Billingsley gave up three hits while shutting the Braves out through… (Erik S. Lesser / European…)
Could it be? Could the great mystery of Chad Billingsley – so terrific one start, so lost-looking the next – finally be solved at age 28?
The Dodgers have fingers crossed that the inconsistent Billingsley has finally taken the next step in his personal development and are pointing to current evidence as to his baseball epiphany. Or at least they’re hoping, again.
With surprising Luis Cruz providing a solo homer, Billingsley held the Braves scoreless through seven innings on three hits Sunday to lead the Dodgers to a 5-0 victory at Turner Field.
It was Billingsley’s sixth consecutive outstanding start. Since coming off the disabled list with a sore elbow, the right-hander has gone 6-0 with a 1.29 ERA. In 34 2/3 innings, he has walked eight and struck out 27 and allowed 30 hits.
He did not allow a hit Sunday until there were two outs in the fifth.
Billingsley (10-9) has often been the source of great Dodgers frustration. He would put together a couple of strong starts and look like the No.1 draft pick from 2004 that many had predicted stardom for, then struggle and seem to underachieve the next.
But right now, he is all but dominating. Looking very much like the No. 2 starter the Dodgers need him to be. Even better, really.
His performance enabled the Dodgers to complete their 10-game road trip with a 7-3 record, winning each of their series against the Marlins (2-1), Pirates (3-1) and the Braves (2-1) as they return home to play the Giants.
Meanwhile, the 28-year-old Cruz continues his unexpected contributions. Cruz scored the game’s first run when he homered off Atlanta’s Mike Minor (6-10) in the fifth.
For Cruz, who has spent almost all of his 12-year career in the minors – including a pair of stints in the Mexican League – it was his second home run in as many days.
In his last eight games he is batting .464 (13 for 28) with seven RBI.
The Dodgers added a gift insurance run in the eighth after struggling pinch-hitter Juan Uribe actually walked against reliever Chad Durbin. On a run-and-hit play, Shane Victorino singled Uribe to third. Mark Ellis then popped up to shallow right field, but Jason Heyward lost the ball in the sun and it fell at his feet for a run-scoring single.
The Dodgers were finally able to relax in the ninth, when with the bases loaded – including another hit from a ball lost in the sun by Heyward – Mark Ellis doubled to drive in three.
The Dodgers’ bullpen, which had struggled at times on the trip, worked to perfection Sunday. Ronald Belisario pitched a 1-2-3 eighth, and Scott Elbert – just off the disabled list Sunday – completed the Dodgers’ eighth shutout of the season with a scoreless ninth.
The day completed the two-game suspension of Manager Don Mattingly. Trey Hillman went 2-0 as the acting manager, after Mattingly was suspended for "excessive arguing" in Thursday's game in Pittsburgh.