Billingsley leads Dodgers to series win vs. Rangers
Chad Billingsley got the grounder he was hoping for when he threw the pitch. Except the double play got botched and the Los Angeles Dodgers got behind.
The right-hander shrugged off shortstop Rafael Furcal's two-run throwing error in the first by retiring 16 of the next 17 batters. And he pitched into the eighth to earn his National League-best ninth victory, 6-3 Sunday over the AL West-leading Texas Rangers.
"Billinglsey's been our horse. Today was probably the best start he's had in a few," manager Joe Torre said.
After the error that extended the first, Billingsley (9-3) set down everybody but former Dodgers bust Andruw Jones until Nelson Cruz had a leadoff single in the seventh.
"Chad has been throwing really well," Casey Blake said. "He's a workhorse, and it was just nice to score some runs for him."
Blake drove in four runs, his most RBIs in 117 games since being traded to Los Angeles last July 26. It was his best game since matching a career high with seven RBIs in his previous visit to Texas with Cleveland last June.
Blake had a sacrifice fly in the first and put the Dodgers ahead to stay with his 10th homer, a three-run shot in the third off rookie left-hander Derek Holland (1-4).
Jones, who had only three home runs in 75 games during an injury plagued season for the Dodgers last year, homered for the second day in a row against them leading off the fourth.
Texas didn't have another runner against Billingsley until Cruz, but he was quickly erased on a double-play grounder with Furcal successfully making that relay throw.
"He keeps you off balance," Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "He's got a pretty good cutter, his fastball is good enough where you have to think about it. ... His goal is to keep you off balance, and he did a good job of that today."
Billingsley, lifted after Jarrod Saltalamacchia singled to start the eighth, moved within one victory of injured Toronto starter Roy Halladay for the major league lead. Saltalamacchia was caught stealing right after Billingsley came out of the game.
The Dodgers ace, whose 24 victories since April 30, 2008, are second only to Halladay's 28 in that span, scattered five hits and allowed three runs. Only once in his 14 starts this season has he allowed more than three runs.
"Today was trying to get contact fairly early," Billingsley said. "They were putting the ball in play. I was getting a lot of ground balls early."
Jonathan Broxton worked the ninth for his 16th save in 18 chances. The right-hander struck out three consecutive batters after allowing a leadoff single to Michael Young.
Texas lost an interleague series at home for the first time since 2006, after winning the opener 6-0. Los Angeles, which has the best record in the majors this season, is 7-28 in American League parks the past five seasons.
"It means a lot, especially when you lose the first game in their home ballpark," Torre said. "It does a lot for our confidence."
Holland, whose only major league victory came in relief, gave up four runs on five hits and four walks in five innings.
"That's not good at all. That says I didn't go right after hitters," Holland said. "My location was way off."
James Loney and Brad Ausmus had run-scoring singles in the seventh, after Blake had a leadoff double.
The Dodgers manufactured a quick run after Juan Pierre led off the game with a walk. Furcal attempted a sacrifice bunt, but ended up with a single when he placed it perfectly between the fielders. Orlando Hudson then had a sacrifice bunt before Blake's sacrifice fly.
Dodgers manager Joe Torre got his 2,193th career victory, within one of Sparky Anderson for fifth on the career list. ... Pierre, among the NL leaders with a .343 batting average, was the only Dodgers batter without a hit. He was 0 for 3, but walked and scored twice. ... Rangers 1B Chris Davis, the left-hander who leads the majors with 92 strikeouts in his 59 games, was out of the starting lineup even though Texas was facing a right-handed pitcher. Manager Ron Washington said Davis needed a "mental break." ... Texas played its last scheduled day game at home until Aug. 16.