LOS ANGELES (AP)—Chad Billingsley gave himself the best possible birthday present, even if it was a day late.
Billingsley pitched a five-hitter and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the San Francisco Giants 4-0 Wednesday night, moving above .500 for the first time since May 27 with their fourth shutout in five games.
Matt Kemp scored twice, stole two bases and extended his hitting streak to 17 games for the Dodgers, who trail the NL West-leading Diamondbacks by one game entering a four-game series between the teams that begins Thursday night at Dodger Stadium.
Billingsley (11-9), pitching a day after his 24th birthday, walked none and struck out eight in the first shutout and second complete game of his career. His 145 strikeouts in 138 2-3 innings rank second in the NL behind Tim Lincecum’s 156 strikeouts for San Francisco.
Billingsley, who has won seven of his last nine starts, nearly lost his shutout with two outs in the ninth when Jose Castillo doubled and Randy Winn followed with a single. But left fielder Andre Ethier threw out Castillo at the plate to end the game.
“Yeah, it was good,” Billingsley said with a smile when his birthday was mentioned. “First complete-game shutout is always a big one. To go out there and throw a complete-game shutout with no walks, I’m very happy about that.”
Billingsley retired his first 12 batters—six on strikeouts—before Bengie Molina lined the first pitch of the fifth into center field for a single. Aaron Rowand followed by grounding into a double play.
Rich Aurilia singled to start the sixth before Billingsley retired the next three batters—two on strikeouts. Winn hit a one-out single in the seventh for the other San Francisco hit.
“Unbelievable,” Dodgers catcher Russell Martin said about Billingsley’s performance. “He’s matured so much in a short period of time. He’s in total control out there, he throws all of his pitches for strikes.
“That was a great throw by Andre. He threw it on one hop—perfect.”
Giants third base coach Tim Flannery said he made a mistake in sending Castillo.
“I hold guys in those situations. I held him last week when we were down six, seven runs,” Flannery said. “I mean, people will start going, `Well, you’re shut out again’ and all this and that. But that’s how you play the game. You play the game by the scoreboard.
“But tonight, after 14 years, I became a fan instead of a third base coach for one moment. It’s just flat-out stupid.”
The play extended Los Angeles’ scoreless streak to 23 innings. The shutout was the team’s 10th of the season—all at Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers have won five of six and are 8-4 since the All-Star break.
“This is remarkable, the number of shutouts,” said manager Joe Torre, who thinks the Dodgers are playing their best ball of the season.
“We have more consistent focus,” he said. “We’re more determined at this time. We just seem to be going at it a lot better. We’re playing well right now; we obviously have an important series coming up. We’re excited about that.”
Arizona’s Brandon Webb (14-4), shooting for his major league-leading 15th victory, pitches against Derek Lowe (8-8) in the opener. Lowe blanked Washington on one hit over eight innings in his last outing.
The loss was the fifth in six games for the Giants, who are 4-8 since the break.
Kemp walked and scored against Jonathan Sanchez (8-7) in his first two at-bats, and singled in the fifth to give him the longest hitting streak by a Los Angeles player since Nomar Garciaparra hit in 22 straight a little more than two years ago.
“We won. That’s all that matters,” Kemp said. “I’m not worried about (the streak). Getting on base, scoring runs, that’s all that matters. Trying to have good at-bats, that’s the key.”
Kemp walked, stole second and scored on a one-out single by Martin in the first. Martin hit another one-out single in the third to drive in Kemp, and the Dodgers added two more runs in the inning on an RBI double by Jeff Kent and a sacrifice fly by James Loney.
Billingsley made sure the four-run lead would stand up.
Sanchez, 0-3 with an 8.57 ERA in his last five starts, allowed five hits, four walks and four runs in four innings.
Sanchez has 126 strikeouts to rank third among big league left-handers, trailing only Milwaukee’s CC Sabathia (157) and Philadelphia’s Cole Hamels (135). … Slumping CF Andruw Jones, making his first start for the Dodgers since Saturday, went hitless in three at-bats with a walk.