Owners of the best record in baseball, the Los Angeles Dodgers are doing just fine without their best hitter.
Outstanding pitching is perhaps the biggest reason, but Chad Billingsley hasn't been part of it.Billingsley looks to win for the first time nearly six weeks when the Dodgers go for a sweep of this three-game series with the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday night.Los Angeles sports a major league-best 27-13 mark, and that status hasn't been affected since Matt Kemp went on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring Tuesday.Kemp leads the team with a .359 average and 12 homers while adding 28 RBIs, so struggles by the Dodgers would be understandable.Instead, they've won four of six without him thanks to a 1.70 ERA from the staff -- 1.56 from the rotation.That staggering production continued Saturday, when Clayton Kershaw tossed a six-hitter in a 6-0 win over St. Louis (22-18). That came one night after Los Angeles took the series opener 6-5 while giving up just one earned run.The Dodgers' six-game winning streak over the Cardinals is their longest since an eight-game run from July 24, 1975-May 12, 1976.Billingsley (2-3, 3.83 ERA) will try to keep Los Angeles rolling, but he's 0-3 with a 5.34 ERA in his last six starts after allowing one run in 14 1/3 innings in winning his first two.The right-hander's win drought continued Tuesday, when he gave up four runs and eight hits in four innings of a 5-1 win against Arizona. Still, manager Don Mattingly felt encouraged by the effort."We don't like the result, but I am encouraged by the way the ball came out," Mattingly told the team's official website. "He is working hard to get back to where he was at the beginning of the season and be more consistent."Billingsley is 1/3 with a 4.65 ERA in eight games -- seven starts -- against the Cardinals.He may not face Lance Berkman, who injured his right knee while taking a throw at first base during the third inning Saturday.The switch-hitting fist baseman, the NL comeback player of the year in 2011, has played in only 13 games, batting .333 with a homer and four RBIs. He came off the disabled list last Sunday after being sidelined for 21 games because of a strained left calf."I wish I knew," said Berkman, who has been on the disabled list five times. "We're just going to wait and see what the MRI says, but it just doesn't feel right. It buckled on me twice, and I don't know why did that. I was able to move around OK in here, and then it buckled again. So I have to be careful with it. It's not too painful, but it's just a weird feeling. I wish I could describe it. There's a little bit of instability that's mildly concerning."While Berkman's status is uncertain, Kyle Lohse (5-1, 2.70) is scheduled to take the mound looking for an improved effort.The right-hander gave up three runs in the opening inning before allowing two more and exiting after 6 2/3 while not getting a decision in a 7-6 win over Chicago on Tuesday."It was kind of a perfect storm in that first, me being aggressive but a little bit up, and they're swinging," said Lohse, who has allowed three or more runs in three of his last four starts.Seven of Lohse's eight starts have ended in Cardinals wins, and he's 4-1 with a 2.08 ERA in five road outings.Lohse has won his last two visits to Chavez Ravine behind a 1.35 ERA.
After he went 16-10, 3.14 ERA with more strikeouts (201) than innings pitched (200 2/3), it looked like Dodgers righty Chad Billingsley was ready to assume the mantle of staff ace. That seems like a long time ago, as Billingsley has not only stagnated, but actually regressed.
A look at his Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) - which measures the things within a pitcher's control, such as walks, strikeouts and home runs allowed - shows a persistent decline starting in 2010.