LOS ANGELES (AP) - The Washington Nationals were confident they were going to chase old nemesis Chad Billingsley out of the game early. A bases-loaded, no-out jam in the first inning will do that for a club.
But all they could get out of it was one run. Billingsley and two relievers held the frustrated Nats hitless over the final eight innings, and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat them 3-1 on Sunday in the rubber game.
``When a guy like that who's obviously talented and has good stuff can get out of something like that, it gives him confidence,' Ryan Zimmerman said. ``When you have a pitcher on the ropes, you have to put a crooked number up there. By no means is it easy to get runs in, but we've got to do a better job if we want to win games and be a good team.'
Both of Washington's hits came in the first on singles by Zimmerman and Michael Morse, who drove in Washington's run. Billingsley (9-8) allowed only one baserunner after that, issuing a leadoff walk to Jayson Werth in the fourth.
``I wasn't really in a panic mode,' Billingsley said. ``I felt good out there and I thought I had good stuff. It was just a matter of making pitches when I needed to. Then I was able to settle down and get deep into the game. I wasn't really expecting that, but it worked out that way. After I got through that first inning, I knew that was all they were going to get.'
Coming off a 5-0 loss at San Francisco in which he didn't issue a walk for the first time this season, Billingsley walked his first batter and hit his next one - Danny Espinosa - with a 1-2 pitch. Zimmerman's hit to left field loaded the bases for Morse, who drove in Roger Bernadina. But the right-hander ended his 38-pitch inning by striking out Werth on a fastball, Rick Ankiel on a curve ball and Jesus Flores on another deuce.
``I thought we were going to bust it open in the first inning. We should have. We had the right guys up,' manager Davey Johnson said. ``We couldn't put the ball in play, and that hurt us. And then he settled down and pitched an effective ballgame. We swung and missed a lot today.'
The Dodgers, obviously pumped up by Billingsley's escape act, came back in the bottom of the first with a two-out, two-run single to center by Aaron Miles.
``Bills won that game for us today and really showed a low of heart in that first inning,' said Miles, who came in 7 for 18 lifetime against Marquis. ``When you're looking at bases loaded, nobody out, you're thinking the worst. And for him to just shut the door like that and just cruise the rest of the way, that was huge.'
Matt Kemp never broke stride rounding third on Miles' hit as coach Tim Wallach waved him in. The relay throw to the plate from second baseman Espinosa had Kemp beat - but it was low, and Flores couldn't handle it cleanly as the gamble paid off.
``I was just reading him and going hard, and he kept waving his arms. So I just kept going and it turned out to be the right decision,' Kemp said. ``I'm aggressive anyway, and we'll do anything to score runs. It was a gamble that we took. The catcher dropped the ball and we got an extra run out of it.'
Billingsley is 4-0 with a 2.28 ERA against the Nationals at Dodger Stadium. His only loss to them was on April 25, 2010, when he pitched six innings of four-hit ball and dropped a 1-0 decision to Scott Olsen at Washington.
``Obviously he's got a good fastball, but he pitches as well,' Zimmerman said. ``He throws that cutter and slider, and his breaking ball was going pretty good today - because that's what he got a lot of his strikeouts on. You've got to be ready to hit and get him before he gets into his count - because once he gets you into his count, he's got a couple of pitches he can get you out with.'
Kenley Jansen pitched a perfect eighth, and rookie Javy Guerra did likewise in the ninth for his seventh save in as many attempts. The Dodgers have won seven of their last 12 games, and Guerra has preserved five of the wins.
Jason Marquis (8-5) lost for the third time in four starts, giving up three runs, five hits and four walks in six innings. The right-hander, who did not allow an earned run over 26 1-3 innings in his first four career starts at Dodger Stadium, has a 5.48 ERA with three losses in four starts at Chavez Ravine since then.
Miles aggressive baserunning was indirectly responsible for the Dodgers' third run. James Loney came up in the third with the bases loaded and hit what appeared to be an inning-ending double-play grounder to second, but Miles' hard slide forced shortstop Ian Desmond to make a low relay throw to first that pulled Morse off the bag and allowed Rafael Furcal to score. Marquis' third walk of the inning loaded the bases again, but Jamey Carroll flied out.
Notes: Espinosa has been hit by 16 pitches, the most in the NL. Last season with the Nationals, he had 112 plate appearances without getting plunked. As a team, Washington batters have been hit an NL-high 44 times. ... Teams managed by Johnson are 68-44 against the Dodgers during the regular season, and 6-4 in the postseason. ... Johnson had the distinction of getting the final hit Sandy Koufax ever gave up - an opposite-field bloop single in Game 2 of Baltimore's 1966 World Series sweep of the Dodgers. ... Morse began the day fifth in the NL batting race with a .314 average - six points higher than Kemp, who was hitting .336 as recently as June 27.
The Associated Press News Service
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