The Padres trailed 6-0 in the fifth inning and looked to be put away but a late-inning rally sent the game into extra frames. They sent nine batters to the plate in the ninth inning and scored five runs to even the score at six apiece.
Chad Billingsley, who was selected to the All-Star game earlier in the day, threw eight-plus innings of inspired baseball in perhaps his best start of the season. Chad struck out five Padres but more importantly did not issue a walk on the afternoon.
Joe Torre was forced to take him out in the ninth inning after surrendering back-to-back extra-base hits, but Billingsley received a standing ovation from the partisan Dodger crowd.
After allowing eight runs in his last two starts, Billingsley held the Padres offense to just three runs on four hits. Billingsley’s previous low for hits allowed in his career was five, which he last did on Jul. 30, 2008 against the San Francisco Giants.
It was also just the third start of the season that Billingsley threw fewer than 100 pitches as he came in three short with 97 tosses on the day.
Two of the Padres hits were solo home runs, the first was a Kevin Kouzmanoff shot in the fifth and the second came in the ninth inning when Chase Headley led off the inning with a line drive over the right field wall.
Billingsley also got things going with the bat. He actually matched the Padres offensive output himself, collecting two hits while going 2-for-4 with a double and home run on the afternoon.
The Dodgers offense came to life against Padres starter Josh Banks. In just four-and-one-third innings Banks allowed six runs on nine hits, including three home runs.
In fact, every Dodgers starter except for Russell Martin collected a hit and five Dodgers has multi-hit days as the team pounded out 18 hits.
Despite the awakening of the bats, the Blue Crew also could have made the margin much wider as they left 12 men stranded on base in the first nine innings, compared to just two men left on base for the Padres in the same nine innings.
Andre Ethier gave the Dodgers a 1-0 lead with a long home run to right center field in the top of the second inning. It was Ethier’s 16th home run of the season and only his second away from Dodger Stadium.
Billingsley doubled to right field to start off the top of the third inning and came around to score on Casey Blake’s 12th home run of the season, a two-out, three-run blast later in the inning.
Chad flexed his muscles again to lead off the fifth inning when he launched his first home run of the season into the left field seats.
Rafael Furcal followed Billingsley with a triple and was brought home by a Juan Pierre single to make the game 6-0. Furcal continued his new found success after moving back to the leadoff spot with another three-hit night.
Pierre, filling in for Manny Ramirez in left field, collected four hits on the day.
Suddenly, things got very interesting and what looked to be Billingsley’s 10th win of the season quickly turned into another nightmare for manager Joe Torre.
Just one night after the bullpen struggled and lost a lead late in the game, closer Jonathan Broxton threw 38 pitches and walked three batters as the bullpen let a five-run lead slip away in the bottom of the ninth.
Broxton came on in a non-save situation to relieve Billingsley after the first two Padres batters reached base. Chase Headley homered to lead off the inning and Tony Gwynn followed with a double down the left-field line.
Broxton inherited Gwynn at second base and after walking Scott Hairston he struck out Padres slugger Adrian Gonzalez for the second out of the inning.
The Padres showed some fight as Will Venable singled sharply to left field and plated Gwynn. The RBI single narrowed the margin to 6-3 and brought the tying run to the plate in Edgar Gonzalez, who proceeded to walk and load the bases for the Friars.
Eliezer Alfonzo then worked the count full before Broxton left a fastball just a hair off the outside corner, walking Alfonzo and forcing home Hairston and making it a 6-4 game.
The next batter was Everth Cabrera, who also worked the count full and the sent the eighth offering from Broxton bouncing into center field. The single scored two runs and evened the game at 6-6.
The Dodgers got a break when Alfonzo slid into third on the Cabrera single, but overshot the base and was tagged out to end the inning and stymie the Padres rally.
The Boys in Blue came back firing in the 10th and after singles from Pierre and Blake, had runners at the corners with two outs against Padres closer Heath Bell. Ethier smashed a line drive to semi-deep right field but Will Venable, who entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning, made a leaping catch to keep the tie-game in tact.
Had the ball cleared the head of Venable the Dodgers would have almost surely scored two runs and taken the lead.
Ronald Belisario entered in the 10th and proceeded to hit the leadoff batter and walk one more. Belisario threw eight pitches and recorded only one out before giving way to Guillermo Mota with runners on first and second.
Mota promptly fired a wild pitch that moved both runners into scoring position, but forced Hairston to pop out to James Loney in foul territory for the second out. After issuing and intentional pass to Adrian Gonzalez, Torre again went to the bullpen and called on left-hander Brent Leach to end the bases-loaded threat.
Leach stepped up big and got Venable to fly out to right field on the first pitch and moved the game into the 11th inning.
After a brutally quiet couple of innings, James Loney led off the 13th inning with a laser beam home run off of Edward Mujica that barely cleared the wall in the straightaway right field, giving the Dodgers a 7-6 lead.
It was Loney’s sixth home run of the season, five of which have come on the road, and it proved to be the game-winner for the Dodgers.
In an interesting managerial move, Joe Torre elected to put the tying run on base in the 13th with just one out.
He elected to intentionally walk Edgar Gonzlaez because Padres pitcher Kevin Correia came out on deck to pinch-hit, as the Padres had run out of position players due to an injury to David Eckstein. Correia sacrificed Gonzalez to second to bring big Kyle Blanks to the plate, who struck out swinging to end the game.
The intentional walk accounted for the lone base runner allowed by Jeff Weaver in his three scoreless innings of relief.
WP: Weaver (5-2)
LP: Mujica (2-4)
Notes from Sunday afternoon
Halfway Home in ‘09
Sunday afternoon the Dodgers collected win No. 52 and it was the 82nd game of the season for the Dodgers and marked the halfway point in the 2009 campaign.
Through 82 games last season, the Dodgers were just 38-44 and trailed the first-place Arizona Diamondbacks by three-and-a-half games. From the point on the Dodgers went 46-34 en route to an NL West divisional crown.
An interesting note: The other NL team that was 38-44 on that date? The Pittsburgh Pirates; oh what a difference a year makes.
An Odd Major League Debut
Jose Lobaton made his Major League debut at second base in the 13th inning. David Eckstein had to leave the game after injuring his right leg the previous inning.
Why is that strange? Lobaton is a catcher.
Congratulation to the All-Stars Hudson, Billingsley, and Broxton
Dodgers’ second basemen Orlando Hudson was selected to take part in the All-star game in St. Louis next week. Hudson was given the day off on Sunday as Juan Castro took care of the duties at second.
Hudson is just the second Dodgers’ second baseman to be named to the All-Star game since 1991 when Juan Samuel represented the Blue Crew (Jeff Kent, ’05).
Starting pitcher Chad Billingsley and Closer Jonathan Broxton were also named All-Stars.
Matt Kemp Needs Your Votes!
Be sure to log on to MLB.com and vote for Matt Kemp to be in the All-Star game. Kemp is one of five finalists nominated for the Final Vote to be named to the last spot on the National League roster.
Voting is open for the next four days on MLB.com so make sure to support the Blue Crew and vote for Matt as often as possible!
Welcome Mr. Vargas to the Club
Right-handed reliever Claudio Vargas was called up the active roster. In order to make room on the roster the Dodgers placed Eric Milton on the 15-day DL with back problems.
PJ Ross is a Featured Columnist for the Los Angeles Dodgers
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