By Dylan Hernandez Los Angeles TimesBy the time Russell Martin recorded the final out by hitting a grounder to short, Chad Billingsley had been removed from the game for so long that it was easy to forget why the Dodgers had to play 11 innings and exhaust seven relievers in a 9-7 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Wednesday turned into Thursday before a loss was officially credited to Russ Ortiz, who gave up a pair of runs in a three-hit 11th inning that unfolded in a nearly vacant Dodger Stadium.
The self-inflicted damage the Dodgers absorbed during Billingsley’s 5 2/3 innings on the mound couldn’t be overcome by another productive night by their potent lineup, which included a home run by Matt Kemp and three-hit games by Manny Ramirez, Andre Ethier, Rafael Furcal and Martin.
The voices in the crowd told the story of the game.
Excited roars turned into nervous murmurs as Billingsley’s night turned from something promising into a flashback of last season.
Billingsley pitched three scoreless innings to start the game, but completely unraveled as he was charged with six runs and eight hits.
Billingsley was brilliant in limiting the Diamondbacks to a double by Stephen Drew and nothing more while throwing only 45 pitches, 27 of them for strikes, through three innings.
He cornered six of the 10 batters he faced in that span with two-strike counts; he went ahead 0-1 on another.
Billingsley looked like he would cruise to his second victory of the season after Ethier and Ramirez each drove in a run in the first inning to put the Dodgers ahead, 2-0. The lead grew to 3-0 in the third inning when a single by Ramirez knocked in Kemp.
Then, Billingsley lost it.
He fell behind Drew, who made him pay by taking him deep over the right-field wall.
He fell behind Justin Upton, who reached base on an infield single.
He fell behind Adam LaRoche, who doubled to right.
He fell behind Mark Reynolds, who then drove in Upton and moved LaRoche to third with a flyout.
A sacrifice fly by Chris Young tied the score, 3-3.
“I just left some pitches over the plate,” Billingsley said. “I made some mistake pitches and you can’t do that.”
Sequences like this are what General Manager Ned Colletti described as his greatest source of anguish in the first week and a half of the season.
“Our command is not acceptable,” Colletti said. “The amount of walks is not acceptable. We’re falling behind hitters all the time.”
The Dodgers went into their game on Wednesday having walked 37 batters in 60 2/3 innings. They had a staff earned-run average of 5.19.
A two-run home run by Kemp in the bottom of the fourth inning helped the Dodgers reclaim the lead, 5-3, but the Diamondbacks drew even in the top of the fifth as Billingsley threw first-pitch balls to four of the six batters he faced.
Billingsley never made it out of the sixth inning, as a run-scoring double by Conor Jackson resulted in Ramon Troncoso’s arrival from the bullpen and a 6-5 deficit for the Dodgers.
Over his final 2 2/3 innings, Billingsley threw 71 pitches, 32 of them balls.
Kemp drove in his third run of the game on a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the sixth to level the score, 6-6.
The stalemate didn’t last long, as Troncoso’s seventh-inning replacement, Rule 5 draftee Carlos Monasterios, served up a lead-off home run to Upton.
The Dodgers tied the score, 7-7, in the ninth inning, which Ramirez led off with a double to right-center. Ramirez was replaced on the bases by Jamey Carroll, who was driven in on a double to left-center by Casey Blake.
But more innings meant more arms had to be used.
Monasterios was followed by Ramon Ortiz, who gave way to setup man George Sherrill, fifth starter Charlie Haeger, closer Jonathan Broxton and, eventually, Russ Ortiz.
The critical play in the 11th came with one out, when Matt Kemp misjudged a fly ball by Reynolds, resulting in the bases being loaded. A run-scoring single by Chris Young broke the tie. A sacrifice fly by Augie Ojeda broke the Dodgers’ back.
“If we catch that ball in center field, who knows?” Torre said.
But who would have pitched?
“It would’ve been one of those guys on the field,” he said. “We would’ve been looking for volunteers.”
At four hours and 57 minutes, the game was the longest played by the Dodgers since they lost to Colorado at Dodger Stadium in a 14-inning contest that lasted five hours and six minutes on Aug. 18, 2007.