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NATIONAL LEAGUE 2009-04-24


NATIONAL LEAGUE 2009-04-24
As his players hurriedly packed to leave town, Dodgers Manager Joe Torre sat in his clubhouse office Thursday night and said simply:

"How about that game the kid pitched tonight? Whew."

That kid was Chad Billingsley and that game was his latest gem, which beat the Houston Astros, 2-0, enabling the Dodgers to salvage one game of their three-game series at Minute Maid Park.

Billingsley's 7 1/3 innings of shutout ball also kept his record perfect at 4-0 and burnished his credentials as not only the Dodgers' top starter but perhaps the best right-handed starter in the majors.

And Billingsley's timing was just what the Dodgers (11-5) needed after they had arrived in Houston with an eight-game winning streak and then lost the first two games to the Astros (6-10).

"It's huge," Torre said. "After losing the first two and having yesterday snatched away from you, the only way you're going to turn it around is to have the kind of game this kid pitched tonight."

Manny Ramirez and Casey Blake each had run-scoring hits to provide the Dodgers offense in front of 26,081.

Billingsley, who gave up only three hits and lowered his earned-run average to 2.05, needed a strong outing to outduel Astros starter Wandy Rodriguez (1-2), who limited the Dodgers to one run in six innings.

"I knew I had to go out there and keep throwing up zeros," Billingsley said. "I really wanted to try and get a win out of this after losing the first two."

Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton earned his fifth save of the season after Torre -- less than sure about the quality of his set-up relievers -- called him into a game early for the second time in a week.

Torre's decision to ask Broxton to get five out instead of the typical three was also influenced by the fact that Broxton had not pitched in several days.

"I wanted to give [Broxton] a little wiggle room . . . and we knew that Bills wasn't going to pitch the ninth inning," Torre said.

Bringing Broxton in early is "not something you're going to make a habit," Torre said. "It has to be special circumstances."

And with a small lead Thursday, "you don't have a lot of room for error, and he's the only I wanted to go to," Torre said.

Broxton didn't make it easy on himself or Torre, however.

In the ninth inning, after Houston's Miguel Tejada singled, Broxton hit Geoff Blum and then threw a wild pitch that put the runners on second and third.

But he retired Darin Erstad on a grounder to first to end it.

The Dodgers scored in the first inning when Rafael Furcal walked, Orlando Hudson singled and Ramirez singled home Furcal.

Matt Kemp protected the lead in the third inning when he made a diving catch of a line drive hit by Kaz Matsui with a man aboard.

Houston threatened again in the sixth when Jason Michaels was hit by a pitch and advanced to second on Matsui's sacrifice.

Tejada then grounded to Furcal, who threw wide to Dodgers first baseman James Loney for an error. But Billingsley then got Lance Berkman to hit into a double play.

After Houston reliever Geoff Geary took over for Rodriguez in the seventh inning, Kemp singled and Blake drove him home with a double.

The Dodgers start a three-game series with the Colorado Rockies tonight. --

james.peltz@latimes.com


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: April 24, 2009

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