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Dodgers excel in homework


Dodgers excel in homework
Outfielder Manny Ramirez sang to himself and juggled a couple of baseballs as he walked out of the Dodgers' clubhouse, his spirits visibly lifted by what transpired on the field Sunday.

With a 7-3 victory over the San Diego Padres , the Dodgers improved their record at Dodger Stadium to 10-0, setting a franchise mark for the most consecutive victories at home to start a season.

This gets better: The Dodgers won with Ramirez on the bench.

Also taking the day off were catcher Russell Martin, shortstop Rafael Furcal and third baseman Casey Blake.

The exclusion of four starters from their lineup didn't prevent the Dodgers from becoming one of only four modern-day National League teams to start a season 10-0 at home, a distinction also held by the 1983 Atlanta Braves, 1970 Chicago Cubs and 1918 New York Giants, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

"You're supposed to win at home," Chad Billingsley said.

Billingsley neglected to mention the reason the Dodgers thought they were supposed to win Sunday.

"When he pitches," Manager Joe Torre said of Billingsley, "we have to win."

Billingsley (5-0) became the first NL pitcher to win five games, holding the Padres to two runs and four hits over seven innings. He walked four and struck out eight.

"I can't say enough of what Chad did," Juan Pierre said. "He's coming of age. I don't think anybody's comfortable with Billingsley. No guy really wants to dig in."

That was certainly the case with the Padres , who lost for the 11th time in 13 games and spiraled further down in what is turning into a disastrous season for them.

"I was able to settle in," Billingsley said, pointing to the three runs the Dodgers scored in the first inning.

Pierre led off the game with a single and scored on a double by Orlando Hudson, who scored on a double by Andre Ethier. James Loney increased the Dodgers' lead to 3-0 by driving in Ethier with a single.

Ethier's run batted in was his team-leading 24th.

Consecutive doubles in the second inning by Chase Headley and Edgar Gonzalez closed the gap to 3-1, but Billingsley otherwise had a relatively uneventful day. The Padres didn't score again until the seventh inning, when Brian Giles hit a home run that cut the Dodgers' lead to 7-2.

The beneficiary of Billingsley's superb form was backup catcher Brad Ausmus, who made his fourth start.

"He has so many weapons to choose from that calling a game is really easy," Ausmus said. "He has three strikeout-caliber pitches in his fastball, his cutter and his curveball. You can say that about a handful of pitchers at the major league level."

Billingsley said he has a better idea of how to use his weapons.

The 24-year-old right-hander was again calm and collected when faced with a crisis, this one in the sixth inning.

Billingsley issued consecutive two-out walks to load the bases but struck out Headley to end the threat.

"I'm just learning overall, learning things, knowing situations, knowing what you have to do," Billingsley said.

The Dodgers blew the game open with a four-run sixth inning that included successive two-out singles by Ausmus, Juan Castro, Billingsley and Pierre. Hudson drove in the final two runs of the surge with his second double of the game.

Hudson was two for three with two doubles, three runs batted in, a run scored and a walk.

The Dodgers will remain at Dodger Stadium for the next week, beginning with a two-game set against Arizona that starts tonight.

--

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: May 4, 2009

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