CINCINNATI (AP)—The offense was awful. The rotation was unraveling. The losing streak had reached five games. The Los Angeles Dodgers desperately needed someone to do something special to end the misery.
Chad Billingsley took matters into hand.
The right-hander took a shutout into the seventh inning Tuesday night, and the Dodgers held on for a 3-1 victory over the Cincinnati Reds that ended that five-game losing streak and provided a respite from a run of really bad days.
“Right now, we’re a team that’s battling through some injuries,” said Billingsley (5-7), who gave up a run and five hits in 6 1-3 innings. “It’s tough.”
Billingsley was a bright spot on an otherwise ominous day for the Dodgers’ rotation. Brad Penny went on the 15-day disabled list with a sore shoulder, and Hiroki Kuroda was sent back to Los Angeles for tests on his sore shoulder.
With their offense barely scoring, the Dodgers needed a stingy performance from Billingsley, who has twice shut down the Reds this season. He hadn’t won since he pitched seven shutout innings in a 4-1 win over the Reds on May 20 at Dodger Stadium.
“That was big,” manager Joe Torre said. “Somebody’s going to have to pick us up. Before I came on here, I heard a lot of good things about Billingsley. You can see leadership, take-charge qualities about him.”
The 23-year-old pitcher is 2-1 in three career starts and one relief appearance against the Reds, allowing only two earned runs in 19 2-3 innings. Unlike the last time he faced the Reds, Billingsley relied more heavily on his fastball this time.
“He wasn’t throwing his breaking ball for strikes, but it was down,” said Corey Patterson, who was 1-for-5 and grounded out to end the game. “He wasn’t hanging it in the strike zone. Basically, he did a good job keeping his pitches down.”
“Joe did a good job,” Torre said. “He doesn’t melt, Joe Beimel. He comes in and falls behind 2-0, but he knows exactly what he wants to do. He’s been terrific for us there.”
Takashi Saito struck out a pair in the ninth while getting his ninth save in 12 chances. The right-hander has gotten 13 of his last 15 outs by strikeout.
“I’m not exactly sure of the reason why, to tell you the truth,” Saito said through a translator. “I don’t know if strikeouts are necessarily good or bad. While I’ve been striking guys out, runs have been scoring.”
Juan Pierre and Russell Martin had run-scoring doubles off Johnny Cueto (5-7), who regained his control but couldn’t get the Reds out of their rut. Cincinnati has lost 10 of its last 15 games, leaving the Reds marooned in last place in the NL Central.
The 22-year-old rookie was coming off his wildest start. Cueto walked eight in only five innings of a 10-3 loss to St. Louis on Wednesday, the most walks allowed by a Reds pitcher in nine years. He gave up three walks in seven innings on Tuesday, and one of them led to a run.
“He gave us exactly what we wanted to see,” manager Dusty Baker said. “We just couldn’t get any runs. Billingsley has shut us down both times he’s faced us.”
Angel Berroa walked with one out in the third and scored on Pierre’s double to left. Jeff Kent singled and scored on Martin’s double in the fourth. Kent also doubled home a run in the eighth with his third hit of the game.
These days, three runs qualify as an outburst for the Dodgers. Los Angeles had been shut out twice and limited to one run another time during the five-game losing streak, which matched the Dodgers’ season high.
The game started seven minutes late because of on-field ceremonies honoring Ken Griffey Jr.’s 600th home run. The 38-year-old outfielder became the sixth to reach the mark last week in Florida. Griffey, out of the lineup because of illness, stood on the field with his family and briefly thanked the fans for coming. He pinch-hit in the ninth and struck out.
Kuroda was scheduled to start Wednesday’s game. Instead, Derek Lowe will move up a day and take his place. … LH Eric Stults was called up from Triple-A to replace Penny. He will start Thursday’s game. … 1B James Loney grounded into his 15th double play, most in the NL. … Pierre slammed into the wall in left field to take a hit away from Jay Bruce in the sixth. The Reds rookie outfielder failed to get a hit in four at-bats, extending his slump to 0-for-15 and dropping his average to .325.