LOS ANGELES (AP)—The Dodgers are on the club’s best run since 1899, and they swear they’re not giving it much thought.
“It makes for good reading, it makes for a lot of good conversation for a lot of people,” manager Grady Little said after Los Angeles beat the Florida Marlins 4-0 Tuesday night for its sixth straight victory and 17th in 18 games.
“We just feel like we’re playing good baseball,” added Little, whose team extended its NL West lead to 3 1/2 games over San Diego. “All the components are working very good for us right now.”
One of those components, rookie Chad Billingsley, was at his best in the latest victory, allowing three hits over seven innings and striking out a career-high nine. The 22-year-old right-hander is 4-1 with a 1.76 ERA since the All-Star break.
The Dodgers made a winner of Billingsley (4-3) by scoring four times off three relievers in the seventh—after he was lifted for a pinch-hitter. Kenny Lofton hit a one-out RBI double to snap a scoreless tie.
The 39-year-old Lofton also downplayed the Dodgers’ streak, saying: “I think the media puts more into it than we do. We just try to win ballgames.”
The last NL team to win 17 of 18 games was the 1986 New York Mets, who went on to win the World Series. No team in franchise history had won 17 of 18 since the Brooklyn Superbas went 20-1 during one stretch in 1899.
“Right now, we really don’t think about it,” rookie catcher Russell Martin said. “I’m sure at some point we’ll look back at it and say, `Wow, what a stretch.”’
The Dodgers’ streak began July 28, after they lost 13 of their first 14 games following the All-Star break. Their lone loss since they turned it around was on Aug. 9, when they were beaten by Colorado 3-1.
Los Angeles starters are 12-1 with a 2.55 ERA in the last 18 games.
“It’s hard to visualize any team winning 17 out of 18,” said Marlins manager Joe Girardi, whose team is 0-5 against the Dodgers this month, getting outscored 31-9. “But obviously, they’ve performed at the highest level. It’s pretty awesome.
“We had an opportunity to beat them the last two nights and we didn’t do it. Tomorrow’s a new day, and we’ll come out ready.”
Billingsley, making his 12th big league start, threw 106 pitches—68 for strikes—and walked only one. He entered having walked 47 in 61 1-3 innings, including six in his previous outing. The only walk he issued was to Joe Borchard with two outs in the seventh.
“I just pounded the strike zone with all my pitches, threw everything for strikes,” Billingsley said. “I was just giving the hitters too much credit. The last couple outings, I’d get ahead and just waste pitches. I didn’t need to do that.
“I’ve been battling myself, that’s all I can say, instead of believing in what got me here.”
Florida rookie Anibal Sanchez blanked the Dodgers on three hits over the first six innings. Then came the decisive seventh.
Martin singled off Randy Messenger (1-7) and went to second on pinch-hitter Ramon Martinez’s sacrifice before Rafael Furcal drew a walk. Lofton sliced a 1-2 pitch down the left-field line to score Martin.
After Messenger intentionally walked Nomar Garciaparra to load the bases, J.D. Drew hit into a forceout against Taylor Tankersley to drive in Furcal. Jeff Kent and Andre Ethier followed with RBI singles.
Hanley Ramirez singled to start the game, but was thrown out trying to steal by Martin, just the eighth time Ramirez has been caught in 44 attempts. Billingsley retired his next 14 batters before Miguel Olivo and Alfredo Amezaga singled to start the sixth. Billingsley pitched out of trouble by retiring the next three batters—two on strikeouts.
Sanchez retired 11 of his first 12 batters and held the Dodgers hitless until Drew hit a two-out double in the fourth.
Marlins rookie 2B Dan Uggla went hitless in four at-bats, ending his 11-game hitting streak. … Billingsley’s nine strikeouts equaled a season high for the Dodgers. Brett Tomko struck out nine against San Diego on May 4. … The Marlins optioned C Paul Hoover to Triple-A Albuquerque after the game in preparation for activating C Matt Treanor from the 15-day disabled list on Wednesday. Treanor has been sidelined since Aug. 1 with a strained left shoulder. … The Dodgers are 14-0 with Wilson Betemit in the starting lineup. They acquired the 26-year-old switch-hitter from the Braves on July 28 for RHP Danys Baez, INF Willy Aybar and cash.