ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) - Dodgers manager Don Mattingly is tired of answering questions about Chad Billingsley's inability to win on a consistent basis. The right-hander's latest effort won't make those nagging inquiries go away, though.
Billingsley was staked to a five-run lead in the first two innings Friday night, but coughed it up by the fourth and the Los Angeles Dodgers lost 8-5 to the Angels in the opener of the season's second Freeway Series.
``We've talked about this so much lately, and we've done it enough that it's made me do some research,' Mattingly said. ``When we start looking at Bills over time, it's pretty good. I mean, it may not be what we think it should be or could be, but it's still pretty (darn) good. Go and look at his last four years and put his numbers up against the whole league. I think he's in the top 10 in wins and strikeouts, and probably innings pitched.'
The seven-year veteran hasn't gone longer than seven innings since his season debut, when he allowed three hits over 8 1-3 innings in a 6-0 win at San Diego. He has completed seven innings in only three of his 14 starts since then.
``Even though he may not be a 20-game winner, his whole body of work is pretty good, comparatively,' Mattingly added. ``You know what I'm saying? But I want more and I want him to want more - and I think there's more there. It's just a matter of being consistent. I asked him the other day: `Bills, do you ever get tired of answering all those questions - because I'm getting tired of answering them about you every time.''
Bobby Abreu hit a three-run homer for the Dodgers on the first pitch he saw in his return to Angel Stadium. But it wasn't enough for Billingsley (4-6), who gave up six runs and 10 hits in five innings.
``When you get a lead early, you try not to walk guys and continue to attack the strike zone. That was my thought process,' Billingsley said after the Dodgers' fourth straight loss.
``They're a very dangerous lineup. I just didn't get the job done today. Balls were finding holes, and you can't do anything about that. That's baseball. I've been playing for a few years and I understand this game. But I'm still learning. There's nothing easy. So I just have to go out there and grind and continue to pitch my game.'
Rookie sensation Mike Trout gave the Angels a 6-5 lead in the fourth with a solo homer that capped another three-run rally against Billingsley. It was the fourth time in the last five regular-season meetings between the Dodgers and Angels that the game turned on a tiebreaking home run.
The Dodgers totaled four runs over their previous four games, including a three-game sweep by Oakland. But Abreu gave Billingsley a great head start in the first inning with a towering drive far back into the elevated seats in right field after singles by Jerry Hairston Jr. and Andre Ethier.
The emergence of Trout, Mark Trumbo (26) and Peter Bourjos (25) made the Angels' outfield too crowded for the 38-year-old Abreu to play a regular role, despite Vernon Wells' long-term thumb injury. He was released on April 30, and the Dodgers signed him as a free agent four days later. Since then, he is hitting .297 with 13 RBIs in 41 games. But his slow home run trot wasn't aimed at the Angels.
``Not really. It's nothing personal,' Abreu said. ``To me it was just another team that we face and another team that we have to beat. I was just happy to hit a homer right there. It felt good that I did something to help the team and give us a few runs in the first inning.'
Dan Haren (5-7) allowed five runs, nine hits and three walks over five innings with five strikeouts. Ernesto Frieri, the fifth Angels pitcher, worked a hitless ninth for his eighth save in eight chances.
The Dodgers extended the margin to 5-0 in the second with RBI singles from Hairston and Juan Rivera. But the Angels fought back with three runs in the bottom half on Alberto Callaspo's RBI double, Howie Kendrick's sacrifice fly and Erick Aybar's RBI groundout.
``I think our recent success has given us more confidence to come back,' Trumbo said. ``I mean, when you're down early like that, it's not the end of the world. There are still nine chances to come back and get the job done. It was fortunate that we were able to answer them quickly and get some of the momentum back on our side.'
NOTES: Billingsley is 1-5 with a 5.36 ERA in seven career starts against the Angels, who had hit only two homers off him in 42 1-3 career innings prior to Trout's clout. ... Only two of Abreu's last 28 home runs have come with more than one runner on base. The other was a tying, three-run shot off Clayton Kershaw in the Angels' 6-3 win over the Dodgers on June 22, 2010, at Anaheim.
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