Billingsley hopes to quiet Phils, crowd
LA right-hander faces challenge in left-handed-heavy lineup
PHILADELPHIA -- When the Dodgers acquired Greg Maddux through waivers late this summer, they made it no secret that they expected their future Hall of Famer to help as much in the clubhouse as he did on the field. And Maddux certainly held up his end of the bargain, providing constant advice for the Dodgers' stable of young pitchers.
Just last week, in fact, Maddux spoke with Chad Billingsley before the latter's first career playoff start and second career outing at Wrigley Field.
And neither did the Cubs. Billingsley, at 24 years old and pitching in the most significant spot of his life, struck out seven Cubs over 6 2/3 innings, allowing just one run. He gave the Dodgers a dominant edge in the series. And he earned manager Joe Torre's trust as Friday's Game 2 starter in this best-of-seven National League Championship Series at Citizens Bank Park.
Billingsley has pitched there before with fine success, once this season and twice total in his three-year career. And so this Friday, unlike last Thursday, he will take the mound knowing precisely what to expect.
"It's going to be loud," he said. "I can probably guarantee you that."
It's a rather smart bet. Citizens Bank Park was downright deafening on Thursday when the Phillies beat the Dodgers, 3-2, to move within three victories of the NL pennant, and should open its gates to an equally raucous crowd prior to Game 2. If Billingsley does his part on Friday, he might just be able to quiet that crowd. But if he falls short, then the home team will take a commanding 2-0 series lead.
Though the Phillies lagged behind the Cubs in offensive production this year, they will present Billingsley with an entirely new set of challenges. Unlike the Cubs, who relied almost exclusively on the right-handed power in the middle of their batting order, the Phillies are anchored by left-handed sluggers Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, each of them among the NL's more fearsome power hitters.
TALE OF THE TAPE: GAME 2 STARTERS
|2008 REGULAR SEASON|
|Overall||30 GS, 10-13, 4.55 ERA, 65 BB, 163 K||32 GS, 16-10, 3.14 ERA, 80 BB, 201 K|
|Key stat||7-4, 3.06 since July 1||0.63 HR/9 (ninth in NL)|
|Division Series||1 GS, 1-0, 2.57||1 GS, 1-0, 1.35|
|Regular season||222 G, 173 GS, 69-60, 4.37 ERA, 21 SV||96 G, 68 GS, 35-19, 3.33 ERA|
|Postseason||3 G, 1 GS, 1-1, 2.16 ERA||3 G, 1 GS, 1-1, 1.04 ERA|
|AT CITIZENS BANK PARK|
|2008||14 GS, 7-5, 3.01 ERA||1 GS, 0-1, 4.50 ERA|
|Career||86 G, 62 GS, 27-24, 4.05 ERA, 10 SV||2 GS, 1-1, 2.77 ERA|
|AGAINST THIS OPPONENT|
|2008 regular season||2 GS, 1-1, 1.93 ERA||1 GS, 0-1, 4.50 ERA|
|Career||11 GS, 4-2, 2.61 ERA||3 GS, 1-1, 4.00 ERA|
|Postseason||First meeting||First meeting|
|Loves to face||Manny Ramirez, 3-for-19||Greg Dobbs, 0-for-3|
|Hates to face||Matt Kemp, 4-for-10, 3 XBH||Pedro Feliz, 4-for-12, 2 XBH|
|Why he'll win||3.78 ERA on extra rest this year, vs. 5.61 on regular rest; pitching on seven days' rest Friday||Including NLDS start, has 2.76 ERA since All-Star break|
|Pitcher beware||Has been hit hard in early going -- opponents batting .339 and slugging .685 in first inning||Allowed a .274 AVG and .369 OBP to LH hitters this year; Phils feature at least four dangerous LHH|
|Did you know?||Has not been charged with an error since 2005||Has struck out in 70 of his 123 career Major League at-bats|
Against Billingsley, those two could create even more trouble than usual. Left-handed batters have hit nearly 50 points higher off him than right-handers this season, and Utley and Howard have combined for a .364 career average against Billingsley in 11 lifetime at-bats.
"I don't think there's any question that the Cub lineup was very scary," Torre said, before stressing how equally dangerous the Phillies lineup can be. "We're certainly going to go out there with our best, and we'll see if our best is good enough."
"They've got a lot of power and speed," Billingsley said. "You just want to keep those first couple of guys off the bases when you have Chase and Ryan coming to the lineup. That's one of the main things."
Another main thing, about which Billingsley has little control, is the offense. The Dodgers couldn't muster much off Cole Hamels throughout Game 1 and won't have any sort of easier assignment on Friday against Brett Myers. Despite an uneven season, Myers has been dominant at times -- including Game 2 of the Division Series, when he fired seven effective innings to earn a victory.
"This kid's aggressive and he's going to give you everything he has," Torre said of Myers. "He's not afraid to throw a breaking ball. That's probably his signature. And yet he can get the fastball up there in pretty good speed. But I admire what he does as far as -- he just doesn't look like the thought of failure is in his mind."
It helped, of course, that Myers had the luxury of pitching Game 2 of the NLDS after a Game 1 victory -- and he'll enjoy the same luxury on Friday. His start should carry less pressure than Billingsley's, simply because the Dodgers can't afford to fall into a deeper hole.
It's a situation that the Dodgers never faced in the NLDS, sweeping the Cubs so decisively in three games. But it's also a situation that Torre doesn't believe will affect his team.
"This ballclub has come to play every day," he said. "It's been really rewarding for me to be in that clubhouse and see how comfortable I am with their personality. [Friday] will be the first game we're going after somebody after we lose. And I think I'll get a sense [Friday] if I feel anything different, but my sense is I won't. These kids, and the veterans that we have here, certainly have helped."
The fact remains, however, that the Phillies won Game 1, and have thus put themselves in command of the series.
"I mean, that's huge," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "But you've still got to play four games."
Or, if the Dodgers have their way, at least five.
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.