LOS ANGELES (AP) - Suddenly, the Los Angeles Dodgers' season doesn't appear as bleak as it did a few weeks ago. For one night at least, Andre Ethier rediscovered his home run stroke and helped struggling Chad Billingsley get back in the win column.
Billingsley bounced back from two horrendous outings, Ethier hit a two-run shot and the Dodgers beat the Detroit Tigers 6-1 on Tuesday, preventing Max Scherzer from becoming the first 10-game winner in the majors.
The Dodgers have won three straight following a five-game losing streak, and are 6 1/2 games behind first-place Arizona in the NL West after sitting a season-worst nine games off the pace on June 15.
``It's encouraging,' center fielder Matt Kemp said. ``We're going to take it game by game and pitch by pitch. It's always a big deal to get a win, especially when we haven't been as consistent as we need to be. Every win is exciting, and I feel like we're getting on a roll. We've still got a long way to go, and we're going to keep playing good baseball.'
Kemp stole second and third in the seventh, joining Davey Lopes as the only Dodgers with at least 20 steals and 20 home runs before the All-Star break since the franchise moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles after the 1957 season.
``He's definitely been a great teacher, pointing out things to me, and he's taught me a lot of tricks and things that I need to do out there on the basepaths. So it's pretty special,' Kemp said of the former NL stolen base champ. ``But I've still got a long way to go. Hopefully I can get more and we can win more games.'
Billingsley (6-6) allowed a run and six hits over 5 1-3 innings - the first time in four starts that he made it past the fifth. The right-hander struck out six, walked two and left with a 4-1 lead after loading the bases with a walk to Alex Avila.
``It was a step forward,' Billingsley said. ``I was battling and I was able to mix speeds a lot better today. The main thing is that I was throwing my breaking ball for a strike, and I was able to bounce it when I needed to keep the hitters off balance. I was throwing my curveball more, and I was able to throw it for strikes more often.'
Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera, 0 for 12 lifetime against Billingsley, wasn't in the starting lineup for the first time this season despite a .324 average that was fourth-best in the AL when the day began. He hit for Ryan Raburn after Billingsley departed, and grounded into an inning-ending double play on Mike MacDougal's second pitch.
``We felt like that was a shot to get us back in it, obviously, so we took it,' manager Jim Leyland said. ``Sometimes if you've got a guy like that sitting over there and you wait and wait and wait, you never get that opportunity, so we took a shot with Miguel there. He got it on the good part of the bat. He just didn't get it up in the air.'
Scherzer (9-3) gave up six runs and nine hits in six innings, giving the right-hander a 7.79 ERA over his last six starts. He was 6-0 in his first eight starts this season, and was coming off consecutive victories against Texas, Seattle and Cleveland.
``We were pretty aggressive tonight,' Kemp said. ``We came out swinging. He was trying to get that first strike with fastballs, but he was missing his spots and a lot of the guys were taking advantage of his mistakes and putting good swings on the ball.'
Ethier got the green light from rookie manager Don Mattingly on a 3-0 pitch in the fifth and hit his seventh homer to extend the Dodgers' lead to 4-1. The two RBIs matched Ethier's total in his previous 41 at_bats.
``We've been having trouble scoring runs, and (Scherzer) needed a strike right there,' Kemp said. ``Dre put a good swing on it and put it in the seats.'
Pinch-hitter Trent Oeltjen had an RBI double in the sixth and Dee Gordon followed with another double to make it 6-1.
``The thing I didn't do tonight was close out innings and keep it where it was,' Scherzer said. ``I left some pitches up in the zone, made some mistakes on 0-2 counts and gave them pitches to hit - when I needed to throw my best pitch. I have to execute better in those situations.'
Tony Gwynn Jr. gave the Dodgers a 2-1 lead in the fourth with a run-scoring infield hit, just beating the throw from Scherzer after he fielded the dribbler to the left of the mound with Aaron Miles hustling down the line.
The Dodgers, who beat Houston 1-0 on Sunday and the Tigers 4-0 on Monday, extended the scoreless innings streak by their pitching staff to 22 before Victor Martinez tied it at 1 with an RBI single in the fourth.
A.J. Ellis opened the scoring with an RBI single in the first. First baseman Martinez helped Scherzer minimize the damage that inning, forcing Miles at the plate on a bases-loaded grounder by Billingsley, then flipping to Scherzer at the bag on a grounder toward the hole by Gordon.
NOTES: Kemp was 0 for 3 against Scherzer, and is hitless in 16 career at_bats against him. ... Don Kelly, getting a chance to play regularly at 3B with Brandon Inge on the DL, made two dazzling plays to rob Juan Uribe and Gordon of hits. ... Cabrera was used as a pinch hitter for the first time since June 5, 2009, when drew a walk from Angels RHP Ervin Santana. ... Gwynn flied out with the bases loaded to end the seventh. The Dodgers are batting .194 in bases-loaded situations (13 for 67), including Clayton Kershaw's two-run single in his two-hitter on Monday. ... Dodgers pitchers haven't allowed a home run in seven games and 65 consecutive innings since the three-run shot Matt Guerrier gave up to Cincinnati's Joey Votto on June 13 in the opener of this 12-game homestand.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved