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Chad Billingsley Elbow Blues, Andre Ethier Blister Rock

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Perhaps the Dodgers will end up needing Josh Beckett after all. In the fourth inning Dodger starter Chad Billingsley left the first game of a three-game weekend series against the Miami Marlins with a tender right elbow.

The trouble started after Billingsley got Greg Dobbs to ground out to first and walked Donovan Solano. After Rob Brantly fouled off an outside pitch, Billingsley threw a pitch inside that got a bit too much of the plate for a double.

"The pitch to Brantly was inside and didn't feel real good," Billingsley said.

Billingsley stayed in the game and got to a 2-0 count against pinch-hitter Gorkys Hernandez.

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"I threw a couple more pitches and wasn't comfortable throwing," Billingsley continued. "I said let's try to be smart and call Honey out and Donnie out."

Head trainer Sue Falsone was summoned to the mound by pitching coach Rick Honeycutt followed by manager Don Mattingly.

"A.J. came out after the two balls and settled him down and slowed him down a little bit," Mattingly recounted. "That's when he said his elbow felt tender."

Billingsley was taken out of the game and Jamey Wright entered in relief. Billingsley was taken for an MRI.

"It just shows inflammation," Billingsley announced. "That's kind of good news."

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No prognosis for Billingsley was announced after the game.

This was the same elbow inflammation that sent him on the 15-day disabled list right after the All Star break for precautionary reasons. Since coming off the disabled list, Billingsley has regained his dominant form of yore going 6-0 in six games giving up six runs in 41 2/3 innings, a 1.30 ERA. Despite the previous history, Mattingly wasn't too concerned.

"At this point not huge," Mattingly said. "Obviously for him to come out of the game it was tender. The way Chad has been throwing, this time of the year we're not going to take a chance and let him go out there and keep going."

Fortunately it didn't cost the Dodgers in this game as they recorded a 11-4 victory.

Even before that things looked ominous for the Dodgers. Like what plagued them in the San Francisco Giants series, Billingsley gave up two runs in the first inning punctuated by Jose Reyes' home run to right field.

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However unlike the Giants series, the Dodgers came right back. Andre Ethier, despite a bloody blister that looks several inches shy of a stigmata scar, hit an Earl Weaver Special (a.k.a. a three-run homer) to give the Dodgers the 3-2 lead.

Mattingly joked about the blister helping out Ethier.

"I told him we're going to cut a hole in his hand the next time he struggles again," Mattingly said. "The thing in his hand has shortened him up a little bit where he doesn't want to be way out there. It's helping him. He's looking better out there."

You can't argue with the results. Ethier wound up going 4-for-4, his first four-hit game this season and the tenth in his career.

"I'm just putting the barrel of the bat on the ball and figuring out a way to get hits," Ethier said. As massive as the blister on the heel of his right palm is, Ethier said the act of swinging the bat doesn't exacerbate it. "Once you get the emotions and adrenaline going, you don't feel anything."

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The offense didn't stop there. Juan Rivera hit a solo homer in the second inning and Hanley Ramirez hit a two-run shot in the third to give the Dodgers the 6-3 lead.

The bullpen was nearly air tight, the only gaffe coming on a Jamey Wright curveball that hung up in the zone for Giancarlo Stanton who hit it to the left field pavilion. Wright went 1 2/3 innings to get his fifth win of the season. Scott Elbert and Brandon League pitched hitless sixth and seventh innings. Former Marlin Randy Choate got two outs in the eighth before giving way to Sean Tolleson who finished out the game getting a strikeout of pinch-hitter Austin Kearns to end the eighth inning.

The Dodgers put the final nail in the coffin in the five-run seventh inning that was topped with two errors on Luis Cruz's single that scored three runs.

To put the ribbon at the end of the day, James Loney was still at Dodger Stadium at the end of the game and new lockers were not being prepared. With the Giants beating the Atlanta Braves, the Dodgers remained three games back.