Dodgers back Billingsley's solid effort

Dodgers back Billingsley's solid effort

PHILADELPHIA -- The trend lines are now headed in the right direction for the Dodgers, who are headed in the direction of the National League East-leading Mets.

A 5-2 win over the Phillies on Thursday meant a second consecutive series victory after a month of not winning one. Chad Billingsley won for the first time in a month and the offense pulled away late after squandering some early-inning opportunities and it was on to an Amtrak shuttle to Manhattan.

"Everybody expected us to play like this, it just took longer than we thought," said reliever Joe Beimel, who has reasons like no other to approach the weekend with anxious anticipation.

For the team and Beimel, it will be the first New York visit since last year's playoff debacle, when Beimel was injured in a bar and the team lost the first two games en route to being swept without him.

Although the Dodgers like to say that this team is different than that one, now that the tide is changing players are quick to refer to last season's late rally as a reference point for what might happen in their current comeback attempt.

"It looks like last year," said Rafael Furcal, who doubled home the Dodgers' first run. "We got hot the last two months last year after we struggled. We've got a good chance to do it again, I think. If we can keep winning two of every three games, I think we'll be fine."

The Dodgers have won six of their last eight games. It hasn't been enough to make much headway in the chase of first-place Arizona, but they're sticking around in the Wild Card race.

"A lot different mood comes with winning some games," said manager Grady Little. "You can't go in here and call a meeting and change the mood. You've got to execute and do the job on the field, get hits with runners in scoring position and make pitches when you have to. You win games and everyone's outlook is different. A week ago, it was a dead dugout and a dead club. It's natural when you're not scoring runs. All of a sudden, we're scoring runs and it looks like everyone's full of life."

As Derek Lowe noted after his win Wednesday night, postseason hopes are dependent on more consistency from the starting pitchers. Billingsley, who hadn't won since July 23, did his part, allowing one run over seven innings, striking out seven and maintaining his command throughout.

"For the most part, I was happy with it," said Billingsley, who kept the ball down. "I got a lot of ground balls and quick innings. My command was good today. I put guys away when I needed to."

Billingsley scored the Dodgers' first run after drawing a fifth-inning walk, and he set up the second with a sacrifice bunt. He wasn't so sure the onus should be on the starting pitchers, but he didn't mind the comparison to last year.

"It's all around, not just the starting pitchers, but a complete team effort," he said. "We got timely hits today. The starters have to keep us in the game and our bullpen has been great all year. Right now, I hope everything is coming together.

"We had a tough time last year, too, and a lot of people were talking like the season was over with. Baseball is a funny game. Right now, we got hot here and we can keep it going and make the playoffs. This is the time to get hot."

The offense got hot in the later innings after spinning its wheels against Phillies sub starter Fabio Castro, who issued six of the Dodgers' nine walks. But the Dodgers didn't push a run across until their eighth base runner.

"We don't need a reason not to score," cracked manager Grady Little, when asked about the inability to get to Castro. "Sometimes it just happens and it doesn't matter who is on the mound. Mostly, we're looking in the mirror a lot."

But unlike Tuesday night's loss, when they had only one hit after the fourth inning, a more patient offense scored in three of the last five innings. Furcal's fifth-inning double broke the ice, a seventh-inning bloop single by Juan Pierre broke a 1-1 tie and the lead was extended in a three-run eighth with Jeff Kent's RBI single and a two-run single by Ramon Martinez, who has 22 hits and 22 RBIs.

Pierre had a scare after his single, jamming his left pinkie when thrown out trying to steal second base. He had the digit taped and remained in the game, saying after an exam that he's done it before and it wouldn't affect his play.

That would be important. Since June 26, the Dodgers have won only one game in which they did not get at least one run from either Furcal or Pierre.

"Me and Juan are getting on base a lot and scoring a lot," said Furcal. "When we get on base, we score and we win. Early in the season, when the pitchers were doing their job, we were leaving men on base."

Philadelphia's final run came on Tadahito Iguchi's eighth-inning home run, the first allowed by Jonathan Broxton in 96 2/3 innings over 94 games.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.