Chad Billingsley was pitching one of his best games of the season. Then it quickly fell apart.
The Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander took a one-hitter into the seventh inning Sunday before Vernon Wells drove in the tying run with a groundout. One out later, Russell Branyan hit a two-run homer, and the Dodgers finished their interleague schedule with a disheartening 3-1 loss to the Angels.
"I probably shouldn't have thrown that pitch — I know I shouldn't have thrown that pitch," said Billingsley, who held the Angels to just three hits over eight innings and surrendered his seventh homer of the season in 18 starts. "He did what he's supposed to. It was one of those days."
The Angels' winning rally began when Bobby Abreu led off with a ground-rule double into the right-field corner. He advanced on a wild pitch and scored on Wells' bouncer to second baseman Jamey Carroll, whose only play was to first base.
Billingsley then grazed Howie Kendrick with a 1-2 pitch and retired Alberto Callaspo for the second out before Branyan drove a 3-2 pitch deep into the seats in right-center for his 191st career homer and first hit in eight career at-bats against Billingsley.
"I've only hit two homers this year, so it's not like I'm tearing the cover off the ball. But it felt good," said Branyan, playing for his 10th club in 14 big league seasons. "I got a pitch that I could drive and I did what I'm capable of doing with it. I got a chance to be up there in an important situation and come through. I want to produce. And to hit a go-ahead homer feels really good."
Branyan is 8 for 43 with four RBIs in 20 games since the Angels signed him as a free agent on May 26. When he joined the club, general manager Tony Reagins said: "We know he has the ability to change the game with one swing. He's not the big bat that everybody is always mentioning, but he's a quality player with a veteran presence. He's got an outstanding makeup and will help us win ballgames."
Ervin Santana (4-8) allowed a run and six hits, struck out seven and walked one. The right-hander, who was 0-4 with a 4.31 ERA in six starts since beating Oakland 4-1 on May 25, was lifted after giving up a two-out double by James Loney — his third hit of the game.
Before the game, the Dodgers reinstated two-time All-Star shortstop Rafael Furcal from the disabled list before and placed third baseman Casey Blake on the 15-day DL for the third time this season because of a neck strain. Furcal had a single in four at-bats, handled seven chances flawlessly and scored on Loney's two-out double in the sixth.
"It was a good test for me, to see how I'm moving," Furcal said. "I got a lot of ground balls in front of me and to the side, and I felt pretty good. I'm just going to keep playing hard, and try to stay healthy the rest of the season and see what happens."
Angels rookie catcher Hank Conger was charged with a strange error in the third inning. Tony Gwynn Jr. swung at strike three in the dirt, and Conger appeared to tag him on the backside as he broke for first base. Conger then cocked his arm to throw the ball around the infield, thinking plate umpire Dan Iassogna called Gwynn out. By the time he realized the play was still live, Gwynn had made it to first safely.
Santana retired his next nine batters before Furcal led off the sixth with a single. He stole second and came home on Loney's drive toward right-center that broke off the glove of speedy center fielder Peter Bourjos as he made a diving attempt for the grab. The double ended an 0-for-22 drought for the Dodgers with runners in scoring position.
The Dodgers loaded the bases later that inning on a walk and a throwing error by Santana on Trent Oeltjen's comebacker. But A.J. Ellis grounded out to Furcal. The Dodgers also threatened in the second, but Santana struck out Ellis and Carroll with runners at second and third.
NOTES: The Dodgers are last in the NL West, 11 games behind division-leading San Francisco, with a week to go before the All-Star break. The last time they were in the cellar at the break was 1999, when they were 10 games off the pace under manager Davey Johnson. They finished third that season, 23 games behind Arizona. ... The Angels won four of the six meetings, and there were no sellouts. They are 50-36 against the Dodgers since interleague play was instituted in 1997. ... Dodgers CF Matt Kemp was voted in by the fans to start the All-Star game. It would be the first time the Dodgers had an outfielder in the starting lineup two years in a row since 1974 and 1975, when Jimmy Wynn started both games in CF. Andre Ethier started last year's All-Star game at Angel Stadium in CF, instead of his regular RF spot. ... Kendrick, teammate Jered Weaver and Dodgers LHP Clayton Kershaw also were selected as All-Stars. ... Mike Scioscia's 132nd interleague victory broke Joe Torre's record. ... The run scored by Abreu was his 1,390th, tying Joe DiMaggio for 90th place on the career list. ... Branyan's other homer this season was with Arizona, on April 13 against St. Louis.