April 10, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis (17) is congratulated by pitcher Clayton Kershaw (22) after hitting a two-run home run during the first inning against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Chad Billingsley Reclaims His Rotation Spot as Dodgers Tie Up Series with Padres

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Dodgers 4 13 0

Padres 3 11 0

WP- Billingsley (1-0)

LP- Stults (1-1)

S- League (3)

HR- Crawford (1), A.J. Ellis (1)

I forgot how much I missed a healthy Chad Billingsley. The bearded right-hander pitched a solid six innings in his comeback start Wednesday night at Petco Park. We all were ultra worried this offseason as Bills tried to return to pitching duty after partially tearing his elbow last season. He opted not to undergo Tommy John surgery which would have caused him to miss the entirety of the 2013 season. So far through Spring Training and today’s start, his elbow has held up just fine. It actually was a pesky bruised finger and fingernail issue which caused him to begin the season on the DL. Bills only allowed one run on five hits, and he deservedly picked up his first win of the season.

 

Welcome back Bills! Photo: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The Dodgers offense was a bit perked up tonight, and we got to see the Dodgers go deep twice with a Crawford solo shot and a two-run homer from A.J. Ellis. The Dodgers still stranded a bunch of runners (a dozen) and fell short on some key scoring opportunities, but Bills and most of the bullpen kept the lead in check this time. Brandon League almost blew up the whole game with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. Luckily, the cards were stacked in the Dodgers favor. Here’s how it all went down…

The Dodgers jumped on old friend Eric Stults in the first inning of Wednesday night’s game down in Petco Park. The new firecracker of the Dodger lineup, Carl Crawford, proceeded to wallop a lead-off homerun. That’s his first homerun wearing Blue, and it put the Dodgers up 1-0 before the seats were warm.

Chad Billingsley starts off just a tad shaky as he walks Everth Cabrera in the home half of the first. He comes back to strike out Will Venable, and gets Chris Denorfia to hit into an inning ending double play.

In the second inning, Luis Cruz finally collects his first hit on the season. He singles on a line drive to right field, and he is full of smiles as he stands on first base. Then A.J. Ellis crushes a 85-mph fastball for a two-run homerun to left field! The Dodgers go up 3-0. Justin Sellers tries to extend the rally by singling, but Billingsley and Crawford both strike out to end the frame.

Billingsley looks real good in the second inning, and he quickly retires the side 1-2-3 and strikes out both Yonder Alonso and Alexi Amarista.

The Dodgers go down in order in the third, and other than a Nick Hundley single Billingsley pitches a scoreless bottom half of the third.

Other than a single from birthday boy Andre Ethier, the Dodgers don’t do much in the fourth inning.

San Diego gets on the board in the bottom of the fourth. A lead-off walk to Venable will end up costing the Dodgers a run. Chris Denorfia doubles to bring in Denorfia, 3-1 Dodgers. Rick Honeycutt goes out to the mound to talk to Bills, and immediately following he allows another walk to Alonso. He comes back and gets Jedd Gyorko to ground into a double play. Amarista flies out to end the inning and the damage to one run.

Carl Crawford, who has far exceeded any of my expectations thus far, triples to left field with one out in the fifth. Mark Ellis follows with a single which easily scores Crawford, and the Dodgers tack on their fourth run. Matt Kemp singles as well. Adrian Gonzalez grounds into a force out. Ethier grounds out to end the inning.

Nick Hundley and Cabrera both single in the bottom of the fifth inning, but Bills induces a ground out from Venable which strands the San Diego runners.

 

A.J. Ellis goes deep with a two-run homerun in the second inning. Photo: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Anthony Bass  comes out of the San Diego bullpen to relieve Eric Stults in the sixth inning. Luis Cruz leads off with a soft single to right field for his second hit of the night. A.J. Ellis strikes out. Sellers draws a walk. Billingsley successfully bunts over the runners to second and third. The Padres wisely intentionally walk Carl Crawford which loads up the bases for the Dodgers. Mark Ellis is called out on strikes, and the Dodgers leave another three men aboard.

Eric Stults pitched 5 innings allowing 4 runs on 8 hits with 4 strikeouts and no walks on 101 pitches.  

Other than a single by Alonso in the bottom of the sixth, Billingsley pitches another solid, scoreless inning. I’m so glad to have Bills back!

Matt Kemp singles for the second time of the night, but the Dodgers don’t do much else in the seventh.

Ronald Belisario comes in for the bottom of the seventh to relieve Bills. Hundley singles, but Beli proceeds to strike out pinch-hitter Jesus Guzman and Cabrera to shut down the Friars.

Chad Billingsley had a very solid return start as he went 6 innings, allowing 1 run on 5 hits with 3 strikeouts and 3 walks on 94 pitches.

Righty Brad Bach will take the ball for San Diego in the eighth inning. Justin Sellers singles on a fly ball to left field, but for some reason he attempts to stretch it out to a double and is thrown out at second by a mile. Don’t get greedy, Justin! Skip Schumaker, pinch-hitting for Belisario, whiffs. Crawford grounds out to end the inning.

Kenley Jansen will pitch the bottom half of the eighth. The flamethrower goes to work and strikes out Venable for the first out. Denorfia and Alonso hit back-to-back singles. Gyorko flies out. Mark Kotsay flies out to Skip Schumaker who makes a nice catch in left field, and Jansen gets out of the jam with the lead intact.

Left-hander Joe Thatcher comes in to pitch the ninth for the Pads. Mark Ellis singles, his second hit of the night, to lead things off for the Dodgers. Kemp flies out. Gonzo singles, and Mark Ellis advances to third. Ethier is hit by a pitch to load the bases up. Luis Cruz pops out on the first pitch for the second out. A.J. Ellis grounds out, and there’s another three runners added to the stranded runner count (12).

 

We feel the same way, Mark. Photo: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Brandon League will vie for his third save of the season in the bottom of the ninth. Cameron Maybin grounds out. Hundley doubles on a line drive to center. John Baker flies out. Cabrera singles, and the Padres have runners at first and third with two outs. Venable singles, and the Padres cash in Hundley. All of a sudden it’s 4-2 Dodgers. Denorfia strikes out swinging, but for some reason A.J. can’t hold on to the ball and Cabrera scores on a passed ball. It’s a one-run game now. Thankfully they finally get the last out as Alonso flies out to left. Phew. That was not the way this game should have ended, but we got the W.

The Dodgers improve to 5-3 on the season.

Tomorrow the rubber game will be at 7:10 p.m. which will feature a lopsided match-up between Zack Greinke and Jason Marquis.

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Tags: A.J. Ellis Carl Crawford Chad Billingsley Eric Stults Los Angeles Dodgers San Diego Padres

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