ATLANTA — — Chad Billingsley grinned after hearing the question: Would he keep his beard?
After all, the Dodgers right-hander has reeled off victories in six consecutive starts since he began growing it, which coincided with Billingsley's coming off a stint on the disabled list.
Billingsley said the beard probably would stay and why not? In his latest gem Sunday, he threw seven innings against the Braves as the Dodgers defeated Atlanta, 5-0, at Turner Field.
Luis Cruz continued his hot batting with a home run in the fifth inning, and Mark Ellis delivered a three-run double in the ninth inning to secure the win.
The victory gave the Dodgers seven wins on their 10-day trip to Miami, Pittsburgh and Atlanta. They open a three-game series with the San Francisco Giants at Dodger Stadium on Monday.
The Dodgers moved half a game ahead of the Giants for the lead in the National League West.
"It was a challenging road trip, especially the last seven against two really strong playoff-contending teams," catcher A.J. Ellis said of the Pirates and Braves.
Billingsley improved to 10-9 and, during his six-game winning streak, his earned-run average was 1.30. The last Dodger to win six consecutive starts was Kevin Brown in 2003.
"It's just sticking with how I've been, command with the fastball, making quality pitches and getting quick innings," Billingsley said.
The game was scoreless until Cruz hit a fastball from starter Mike Minor (6-10) into the left-field stands.
"I figured it was a matter of time before we get one or two [runs] across, and Cruzy had a big home run," Billingsley said. "I got that one run and tried to hold them there."
Cruz's improbable story continues to grow. After several years in the minor leagues, he was called up July 2 and has largely excelled.
On the 10-game trip, Cruz batted .448 (13 for 29) with two home runs, four doubles and seven runs batted in.
"Sometimes you feel good, you see the ball good," Cruz said. "It's not always going to be the same, so let's take advantage of when you feel that way."
Cruz, 28, also gave the Dodgers a scare in the ninth inning when he slowed running out a ground ball, raising fears of a hamstring pull.
But Cruz said that he merely felt he was getting a cramp and slowed down, and that he expected to be ready to play Monday.
The Dodgers scored their second run in the eighth inning when pinch-hitter Juan Uribe walked against Chad Durbin, moved to third base on Shane Victorino's single and scored when right fielder Jason Heyward lost Mark Ellis' fly ball in the sun.
Heyward lost another fly ball, this one by A.J. Ellis, in the ninth inning. After pinch-hitter Adam Kennedy singled and Victorino walked to load the bases, Mark Ellis hit his bases-clearing double.
After Billingsley, Ronald Belisario and Scott Elbert pitched the eighth and ninth innings, respectively.