Chad Billingsley(notes) leads the NL in victories, but he may not be the most intriguing pitcher taking the mound in the finale of this interleague series between the Los Angeles Angels and Los Angeles Dodgers.
As well as being tied for the league lead in wins, Billingsley (6-1, 2.51 ERA) is among the NL leaders in ERA. He’s given up three or fewer runs in all nine starts this season - which the Dodgers (30-14) are 8-1 in - and he’s pitched at least six innings in each outing.
The right-hander allowed three runs and four hits over 6 1-3 innings of a 5-3 victory over the New York Mets on Tuesday. He needed 77 pitches to get through the first three innings, but needed only 28 over the final three.
“I settled in, got a good rhythm and my curveball came around,” he told the Dodgers’ official Web site.
Billingsley is 1-1 with a 1.13 ERA in two starts and two relief appearances against the Angels (22-20). He pitched seven innings against them in a 1-0 victory last season.
The 30-year-old right-hander began the season playing for Triple-A Salt Lake after making three starts with San Francisco in 2008. He didn’t have his best stuff Tuesday against Seattle, lasting a season-low five innings after allowing five runs and seven hits, including two home runs, in a 6-5 victory.
“Matt wasn’t as crisp as we’ve seen,” manager Mike Scioscia told the Angels’ official Web site, “but when push came to shove, he made good pitches.
“He pitched well enough to stay around long enough to win and he keeps staying on that roll.”
Palmer, who trails Joe Saunders(notes) for the team lead in victories by one, is the third Angels rookie to win his first five starts. Bo Belinsky was the other to do so, winning his first five in 1962.
Part of Palmer’s success has been due to the Angels’ run support. They’ve averaged 7.7 runs in his starts.
Their offense hasn’t been too sharp recently, however.
The Angels have scored 10 runs over their last four games, batting .212. They had 12 hits on Saturday, including two home runs, but lost 5-4 in 10 innings to the Dodgers, who have won eight of 10 and have the majors’ best record.
On Saturday, Juan Pierre(notes) drew a walk with the bases loaded in the 10th after the Dodgers tied the game on Casey Blake’s(notes) RBI single in the eighth. Juan Rivera(notes) and Torii Hunter(notes) homered for the Angels, who won the series opener 3-1 Friday.
“Pierre made him work,” manager Joe Torre said. “The thing about Juan Pierre is that it’s great having him up in those situations. He’s been a leadoff hitter pretty much his whole life, so he knows if it’s a ball or a strike.”
The Dodgers have won eight of their last 12 home games against the Angels.