By the time the second inning was over tonight, Chad Billingsley had allowed two runs to score on five hits, including a Mat Gamel homer, two doubles, and a triple. You could almost feel the internetz hate squadz gearing up to destroy him, claiming that his early success was due to inferior competition and rallying to impugn his manhood/guts/heart, etc – you know, the full-on Jonathan Broxton treatment.
We can argue all night long about whether the old Billingsley might have crumbled after such a start, but there’s no question that the 2012 edition isn’t about to let such troubles stop him. Billingsley bounced back to pitch four perfect innings (other than hitting Ryan Braun with a pitch, which sounds pretty perfect to me), retiring the final 11 Brewers he faced. In fact, if there was anything controversial about Billingsley’s night, it was the manner in which he left, as he was lifted for a pinch hitter in the 6th inning after just 83 pitches.
Now, it’s hard to argue against wanting to hit for your pitcher with
the bases loaded two on in a tie game. Those opportunities don’t come along that often, and with a rested bullpen and a team which has trouble scoring outside of Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, you can absolutely see where Don Mattingly was coming from. The problem, however, is that the atrocious Dodger bench crew meant that Adam Kennedy was called upon… and as you may have heard from me once or twice, Adam Kennedy is terrible. Kennedy popped to left to end the inning, and the Dodgers were left with no runs and the crusing Billingsley on the bench. (Related, Billingsley came up with the bases loaded two on in part because A.J. Ellis was intentionally walked to get there. Ellis has been intentionally walked more often than Kemp. Can we please get him out of the 8th spot already?)
Though having to use Kennedy is more of a Ned Colletti problem than a Mattingly one, the decision immediately came back to bite the Dodgers when Matt Guerrier came in and allowed the go-ahead run on two singles & a Norichika Aoki squeeze bunt – an inning that could have been far worse had Kemp not robbed Rickie Weeks on the center field warning track to end the inning, saving at least one run.
The 3-2 score remained the case until the 8th inning – somewhat improbably, the two Dodger runs to that point had scored on hits by Juan Uribe & James Loney – until Andre Ethier crushed a two-run homer to left center, which briefly had memories of his numerous 2009 walk-off and go-ahead hits dancing in my head. After another dominating inning from Kenley Jansen, Javy Guerra entered to close out the Brewers for the 9th…
…and promptly allowed the first two runners to reach base. After a gift of a strikeout from Jonathan Lucroy (and what in the world he was trying to do by bunting I do not know), George Kottaras hit for Cesar Izturis, which raised the possibility of the Brewers potentially heading into extra innings without a shortstop, since Alex Gonzalez is away tending to the birth of his first child. Unfortunately for all fans of #weirdbaseball, that wouldn’t be a concern; Guerra allowed Kotteras to drive the ball to right center field, where Gamel, running from first, beat the A.J.Ellis tag by an eyelash. As I joked on Twitter as Guerra put men on, if he were to blow it, he wouldn’t get anywhere near the kind of blowback as Jansen did after Jansen’s poor game a few days ago. Let’s see how that works out.
The Dodgers are now 9-2, tied with Texas for the best record in baseball.