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Dodgers Avoid Disaster in Victory over Nationals

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The game of baseball never fails to amaze and wonder those who follow the game. Part of the appeal of going to a game is the hope of seeing something unseen. While Chad Billingsley’s outing against the Washington Nationals might not qualify as something unprecedented, it was still quite a wonder to see him and the team wriggle from the potential catastrophe and defeat the Nationals 3-1.

Billingsley had no problems throwing strikes in his 38-pitch first inning. It was the third strike that proved elusive. After going 0-2 to leadoff hitter Roger Bernadina, Billingsley walked him. After going 1-2 to Danny Espinosa, Billingsley hit him with a changeup. After going 1-2 to Ryan Zimmerman, Billingsley gave up a single to left field to load the bases.

Billingsley changed things up with Michael Morse: he gave up the RBI single on a 2-1 count. Perhaps the only good thing to come out of the first four batters was the fact that the Nationals could only go station-to-station.

“Too many pitchers will try to get out of that with a zero,” Dodgers’ manager Don Mattingly said. “We told him to get out if with one, but I didn’t really mean get out of it right away.”

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That’s exactly what Billingsley did staring this freefall directly in the eyes: he struck out Jayson Werth, Rick Ankiel and Jesus Flores to get out the inning.

“It felt good out there,” Billingsley said about his escape. “I wasn’t really in panic mode. I had good stuff. It’s just a matter of making pitches when I needed to.”

Although Billingsley was able to escape the first inning giving up the one run, the Dodgers still weren’t out of the woods given their phobia of run support that has plagued the team throughout the season.

Rafael Furcal started a rally in the bottom of the first with a one-out single. Although Andre Ethier hit into a fielder’s choice that erased Furcal, Matt Kemp’s single really got things going. Aaron Miles hit a single up the middle that scored Ethier to tie the game. However third-base coach Tim Wallach kept waving Kemp. Catcher Jesus Flores couldn’t handle the relay throw from second baseman Danny Espinosa, and Kemp slid home safely to give the Dodgers the 2-1 lead.

“I was just reading [Wallach],” Kemp recalled. “I was going hard. I saw him keep waving his hands so I kept going. It turned out to be the right play.”

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It would be all the Dodgers needed although they added another run in the third inning on James Loney’s ground ball that should have been an inning-ending double play.

Billingsley took it from there retiring all but one of the remaining 22 batters he faced after that Morse single in the first inning - Werth walked to lead off the fourth inning - while striking out ten for the eighth time in his career and second time this season.

“I was able to settle down and get deep in the game,” Billingsley said. “I wasn’t really expecting it, but it worked out that way.”

Kenley Jansen picked things up in the eighth inning and opened with a strikeout of pinch-hitter Alex Cora, the sixth consecutive batter he struck out. Although Bernadina would break that streak with a fly ball to left field, Jansen pitched a perfect eighth.

That set the stage for the de facto closer Javy Guerra who was serenaded on the field to Danzig’s “Mother.”

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“They just gave it to me,” Guerra said denying he chose the song. Being just shy of three years old when the song was released in August 1988, Guerra seems a bit young for Danzig. “Yeah, of course,” Guerra replied emphatically when asked if he knew the song.

After a nine-pitch strikeout of Zimmerman to lead off the inning, Guerra got Morse to fly to right field and Werth to strikeout to record his seventh save in seven chances.

“He’s always a guy that’s got good stuff,” Mattingly said. “The calmness he shows is what you like seeing late in the game. He may be turning it up on the inside, but you don’t see it on the outside.”

Despite his perfect save conversion, Guerra denied that he is the closer for the team.

“I think you guys are the one saying it for me,” he said. “I just get up and toss whenever they ask.”

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Not all was happy and cheerful though. In what was perhaps the biggest swindle perpetuated at Dodger Stadium, Nationals’ reliever Todd Coffey cheated the announced crowd of 36,458 at Dodger Stadium. Instead of sprinting out of the bullpen in his trademark stampeding cattle style when he came into the game in the eighth inning, he lazily ambled towards the mound. Perhaps the ongoing debt ceiling debate has killed his spirit.

The win gives the Dodgers their first series win since sweeping the San Diego Padres at home before the All Star break. The Dodgers have a three-game series with the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks each to close out the homestand.

LA Angels defeat Baltimore Orioles 9-3. Mike Trout, with a three-run homer in the eighth inning to break the game open for the Halos, became the first teenager to hit a homer in the Major Leagues since Justin Upton in 2007.

TONIGHT’S ACTION

LA Angels at Cleveland Indians. 4:05 p.m. FSWest, AM 830 KLAA.

Colorado Rockies at LA Dodgers. 7:10 p.m. FS Prime Ticket, AM 790 KABC.