The funny part is, what was a pretty solid start from Chad Billingsley is going to get lost in a sea of poor bullpen work, bad umpiring, the usual lousy Dodger offense, and the big scarlet L that got hung on Billingsley’s chest. Billingsley worked into the 8th having allowed just one run on four hits and two walks, still south of 100 pitches and looking for all the world as though he was going to finish this one off all by himself.
Of course, the collection of Dead Ball-era bats that the Dodgers have assembled couldn’t manage more than one run off journeyman starter Jeff Karstens, he of the identical ERA & FIP marks entering tonight: 4.99. How bad was it tonight? The team leader in total bases, with three… was Billingsley, who singled and doubled. After the Dodgers touched Karstens for three hits in the first, he pitched into the 6th without ever really being threatened. Michael Crotta, Joe Beimel, Jose Veras, and Joel Hanrahan followed, all without much trouble other than Hanrahan briefly giving the Dodgers some life in the 9th by booting a toss from first baseman Lyle Overbay. (Speaking of the 9th, when Tony Gwynn tried to bunt for a hit leading off the frame, Eric Collins said, “A bunt! That’s a good idea!” The Dodgers were down three at the time. No, Eric. No it is not.)
The exception to all that, of course, was the 8th inning play which got Juan Uribe and Don Mattingly ejected. After Matt Kemp was hit by a pitch leading off (and at some point soon, we’re going to have to deal with the fact that Kemp has stopped hitting), Uribe sliced a ball to left. Pirate left fielder Jose Tabata took the scenic route while seemingly making a great catch before doubling Kemp off first. Though it was a close play, replays clearly showed that Tabata had trapped the ball, a fact which third base umpire Mike Dimuro refused to confer with the other umpires about. In a tie game, going from two on with no out to none out with two out was enormous, particularly when everyone on the planet knew that James Loney would come up with Kemp on third, ground out weakly to second to plate the run, and cause Steve Lyons to spontaneously combust with pride.
Still, though the bad call was a killer, it’s hard to put more blame on the umpires than the inability to touch Karstens or the continued troubles of Hong-Chih Kuo. Kuo entered in relief of Billingsley with one on and the Dodgers down one, and promptly allowed doubles to both Overbay and Ryan Doumit before being yanked in favor of Mike MacDougal. I worried when Kuo came off the DL that it was premature, and nothing we’ve seen from Kuo since has proven otherwise. Chances of him going back on the DL have to be 50/50 at this point, right?
Oh, and there’s more good news. Remember when Andre Ethier sat out a game last week with a sore left elbow? Yeah, when the Pirates kept bashing the ball to right in the 8th inning, he was clearly throwing with an altered motion to protect his elbow. Changing mechanics because of an injury? Well, that always ends well.