How Do You Solve a Problem Like Billingsley?
How do you solve a pitcher like Chad Billingsley? The lack of consistency is enough to make managers go mad. We can file the Dodgers' 5-1 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks as maddening.
Taking a look at his pitching lines this season:
- 4/6 at San Diego: 8 1/3 innings, 0 runs, 11 strikeouts, 1 walk.
- 4/11 vs. Pittsburgh: 6 innings, 1 run, 4 strikeouts, 0 walks.
- 4/17 at Milwaukee: 6 innings, 2 runs, 2 strikeouts, 0 walks.
- 4/22 at Houston: 3 1/3 innings, 9 runs (5 earned), 2 strikeouts, 4 walks.
- 4/28 vs. Washington: 7 innings, 1 run, 6 strikeouts, 2 walks (1 intentional).
- 5/4 at Chicago: 6 innings, 4 runs, 4 strikeouts, 3 walks.
- 5/9 vs. San Francisco: 4 innings, 2 runs, 5 strikeouts, 4 walks.
- 5/15 vs. Arizona: 4 innings, 4 runs, 3 strikeouts, 2 walks (1 intentional).
Three below average starts in a row for Billingsley have raised red flags. But Dodgers' manager Don Mattingly, who had called out Billingsley in the past, came up to bat for his embattled starter.
"Honestly I thought Chad was pretty good today," Mattingly said. "He was just a little bit unlucky."
Say what you want about the decision in the second inning to intentionally walk Aaron Hill to get to the pitcher Wade Miley. You can even dismiss the wild pitch on strike three to Miley that allowed him to reach first base safely to load the bases.
But at that point with a hobbled line up when the team is starting Jerry Sands and Scott Van Slyke in the outfield, Billingsley has to get Gerardo Parra out to keep the game scoreless. Instead Billingsley walked Parra on five pitches to give the Diamondbacks their first run, the only unintentional walk we gave up.
"I felt a lot better today," Billingsley said. "Last time around I beat myself with walks."
That probably wasn't the best time to lose the batter.
With the game still at 1-0 in the fifth inning and Miley leading off, Billingsley gave up five consecutive singles as the D-Backs went station-to-station en route to two runs. Javy Guerra in relief gave up a single to give up another run that was charged to Billingsley.
"We don't like the result, but we're encouraged with how the ball was coming out tonight," Mattingly noted.
I can see the point both Mattingly and Billingsley was making. If the ball had drifted a little to left or right in the midst of the singles flurry in the fifth inning, there could have been a double-play ball or an easy one-two-three inning.
"It's just part of the game," Billingsley said.
But what drives a lot of fans crazy about Billingsley is that he has shown in the past that he could be a dominant pitcher. But to his credit he does keep working on off days to get better.
"My side session this past time was just a matter of getting my hand out of my glove a little bit sooner than I was," Billingsley said. "I was drifting home, and my hand was clearing my glove.
"Today it felt like I had really good timing with all of my pitches today."
Maybe we expect too much out of Billingsley. Maybe there is still that stigma of that 2008 NLCS game against the Phillies when he didn't defend his teammates against the wife-beating Brett Myers.
It could be a lot worse for the Dodgers. Two words: Brett. Tomko.
All in all it was just one of those games for the Dodgers. Despite getting 10 hits, the only run they scored came on an impressive solo homer by Mark Ellis in the sixth inning.
"We had a couple of chances," Mattingly said about the stranded runners. "We just couldn't get that big hit. That was the biggest thing."
Although the loss snapped the Dodgers' five-game winning streak, they end the eight-game homestand with a 6-2 record and still lead the Majors with a 24-12 record.
And don't fret. The Dodgers will be facing the Padres next.