One of these days, as Dodgers manager Don Mattingly keeps preaching to his players, the offense will start producing runs at a consistent clip and the pitchers will finally be rewarded for all of their good work.
That can't happen soon enough to suit Chad Billingsley.
Billingsley gave up three runs and six hits in six innings and struck out four, but the Dodgers were held to fewer than three runs for the fourth time in six games and lost 3-1 to the San Francisco Giants on Thursday night.
"The approach is the same every time, pitch deep into the game and give our team a chance to win," said Billingsley, who was facing the defending World Series champions for the third time this season. "I battled tonight and I was able to keep the game close."
The right-hander, who lost his previous start 1-0 against Arizona despite giving up only one hit over eight innings, has a 2.23 ERA over his last seven outings — but has only one win.
"Chad's been pitching great, and he hasn't gotten any runs," Mattingly said. "I felt like he was frustrated tonight and kind of fought himself. But he battled."
Billingsley, whose only 1-2-3 inning was the first, issued four walks and plunked two during a stretch of 12 batters. The pitch that probably kept him in the game a little longer was his 96th — a called third strike he slipped past Fontenot with the bases loaded to end the fifth. By contrast, Madison Bumgarner used only 64 pitches through the first five innings.
Bumgarner finally got his first victory of the season — in his ninth start. He came within an out of his first major league shutout and complete game before giving up an RBI double to rookie Jerry Sands.
"He was just so tough all night, but you could tell he was tiring in the ninth inning," Sands said. "I got a pitch up, where I was looking for it, and I was able to drive it. It's just frustrating that we couldn't get anything going against him until there were two out in the ninth."
All-Star closer Brian Wilson walked pinch-hitters Jay Gibbons and James Loney to load the bases, but escaped with his 13th save in 15 attempts. Nate Schierholtz made a diving grab of Jamey Carroll's line drive in short right field on a 2-2 pitch for the final out.
"I was pretty far in for that situation, because if he hits it over my head or down the line, the game's probably over," Schierholtz said. "I just reacted off the bat and went for it. I play in on Carroll, so when I saw the point of contact, I broke in on it and didn't hesitate at all. It was risky, but I was confident I was going to make the play. It felt good to come up with it, especially because Madison pitched a good game and deserved to win it."
Manager Bruce Bochy had coach Roberto Kelly signal Schierholtz to play more shallow than usual for Carroll to guard against a possible line-drive single that would tie the game. And since Carroll doesn't have much power, it seemed like a safe bet.
"We were gambling by playing in like that, but I told Roberto that we were going for the win here," Bochy said after the Giants completed a 3-3 road trip. "Nate saved us with his glove tonight. It would have been hard to have had a better catch, with what was on the line. I mean, that defined winning and losing. It that ball gets by him, we lose the game."
"His command is a little off," Bochy said while Wilson took refuge in the trainer's room. "I don't know if his ankle's bothering him, but he says he's fine. The big thing with Brian right now is that he's not quite getting the ball where he wants."
Bumgarner (1-6) allowed a run and six hits. The 21-year-old left-hander has a 1.32 ERA over his last five outings.
"It feels like a playoff win, it's been so long," Bumgarner said. "I'm just glad to finally get that first win out of the way. The last few games, I felt like there's been a big difference from the first four, even though it didn't work out for me. But it taught me a lot and what I need to focus on."
NOTES: The announced attendance for the two-game set between these rivals was only 64,669 — compared to the season-opening four-game series at Dodger Stadium that attracted 192,539. ... Since winning their last pennant and world championship in 1988, the Dodgers are 48-38 against NL teams coming off a World Series title. But they are 61-94 since '88 against NL clubs that won the pennant the previous season and lost the World Series. ... Freddy Sanchez had a sacrifice fly and a run-scoring single, his first multi-RBI game since April 16. ... The Giants open their interleague schedule Friday night, as the Oakland Athletics cross the Bay Bridge. The Dodgers go to Chicago for a three-game set that will rekindle memories of their triumph over the White Sox in the 1959 Fall Classic.