With a spirit-crushing doubleheader sweep at the hands of the Orioles Saturday, followed by the announcement that Chad Billingsley was being scratched from his start with a recurrence of elbow pain Sunday morning, it looked for all the world like Friday night's rainout was going to be the highlight of the Dodgers' weekend in Baltimore. By far.
After Los Angeles went down one-two-three to begin the game yesterday and emergency call-up Stephen Fife labored through a three-run bottom of the first, fans started dialing the baseball equivalent of a suicide prevention hotline. Translation: Twitter and a game thread near you.
But somehow, some way, L.A. rallied against struggling O's starter Jake Arrieta, with four runs in the fifth inning and single tallies in the seventh and ninth to win 7-4.
This was a week that included five losses (and six straight going back to last weekend) and, until Sunday, not a single victory to celebrate.
But, Sunday finally provided some highlights. Mark Ellis, who drove in the first Dodgers' run with a sac fly in the third, singled in two to key the fifth inning comeback, and made a beautiful play on Matt Wieters grounder up the middle in the eighth to save a run. Adrian Gonzalez added two hits, his team-leading 14th RBI, and raised his batting average to .385, which also leads the club. Relievers Matt Guerrier, J.P. Howell, Paco Rodriguez, Kenley Jansen and Brandon League held the Orioles to two hits and no runs over the final 4 1/3 innings to preserve the victory.
Perhaps most encouraging was Matt Kemp's three hits in five at bats, including a clutch single in the game-turning fifth. The power hasn't surfaced yet — not unusual seven months after left shoulder surgery — but Kemp's six hits in Maryland did raise his average from an unsightly .182 to .235. And progress not perfection, right?
So much for the good news. Billingsley has been putting off Tommy John surgery since last summer, hoping that platelet-rich plasma injection therapy will allow him to continue for a time. Turns out that time may have amounted to an abbreviated-by-an-unrelated-injury Spring Training and two April outings totaling 12 innings.
An announcement on Bills' prognosis should come tomorrow, and it'll likely be one of two things: nothing serious, rest and medication prescribed, and see ya sooner rather than later, or he goes under the knife, out at least through 2013. Either way he'll still be Chad Billingsley when he returns. If he returns.
I'm neither a genius nor alone in my winter skepticism regarding Billingsley, but I did see this coming.
L.A.'s starting pitching options have dwindled, as noted Friday. Fife is already in the rotation in Bills' spot, Ted Lilly is scheduled for Wednesday in Chris Capuano's spot, which was really Zack Greinke's spot, and Zach Lee might be the next to debut if someone else falters or goes down with God-knows-what ailment.
For what it's worth, Lee pitched well again over the weekend, getting a no decision in his double-A Chattanooga Lookouts 4-3 over Jacksonville's Suns. Six innings, one earned, two walks and six strikeouts.
Off today, the Dodgers head to New York for three with the Mets, with Clayton Kershaw starting tomorrow opposite Jonathan Niese. On paper, Wednesday looks like an easy NYM win, with new ace Matt Harvey going against Lilly. But who knows? Hyun-Jin Ryu and Jeremy Hefner go Thursday, with the Dodgers returning home Friday for three with the Milwaukee Brewers followed by three versus the Colorado Rockies.
It's amazing how one win can change the feeling for both a team and its fans. Sunday's win did just that for Los Angeles. Kersh to the mound tomorrow.
And by the way, for you second guessers pining for Aaron Harang, he's already 0-2 in a Seattle Mariners uniform, after giving up 15 hits and 11 runs in a whopping 9 2/3 innings. ERA? 10.24.