|Photo by Christopher Hanewinckel, US Presswire|
Friday, April 6, 2012
Billingsley Delivers in Game Number 2
Kemp and Billingsley have proved that Spring Training stats don’t mean diddly.
Chad Billingsley looked as dominant as we have ever seen him in his 2012 debut tonight. Returning to his All Star form of a few years ago, Billingley had so much movement on his pitches tonight that it almost seemed unfair to Padre hitters. His curve worked, darting from 12 to 6 often. His fastball had natural sink to it that was filthy. His most effective pitch may have been that slider he was tossing tonight that couldn’t be touched. Striking out the side twice in the first three innings, it was a relief to see him silence his critics.
What was impressive tonight was Chad getting ahead of the count consistently. He retired 16 Padres in a row from the 4th into the 9th inning. Most encouraging was that he walked only one while striking out eleven.
Yes, folks. I know it was only one game. But a promising one, that’s for sure. Those skeptics that say the Dodgers don’t have decent starting pitching beyond Kershaw are going to be surprised when Billingsley emerges as one of the top no. 2 starters in the league.
I always felt that the Dodgers 1-2 punch was just as formidable as the Giants Lincecum and Cain tandem. I dare say that this year those two just might out-perform that duo up north. Chad’s biggest problem over the years has been psychological. Getting past that 7th inning has always been a struggle for him. He hits a wall there and can’t get past it. His delivery adjustments this spring appear to have paid off on day two of the season. With an 11 strikeout performance, Billingsley breezed past the seventh inning and into the ninth, coming up two outs short of a 3-hit shutout. It was an impressive 108 pitch performance. This start by Bills was a much needed deep outing that allowed the taxed Dodger bullpen a much needed night off.
What remains to be seen is if Billingsley’s performance is that of a truly changed pitcher or if his success tonight was the combination of the advantage of facing a very poor offensive team and having a home plate ump with a liberal strike zone. Maybe it was the beautiful full moon in the black San Diego sky this evening. I will admit that Jerry Meals was very charitable with the strike calls tonight. Regardless of Meals calls, Bills was throwing some filthy stuff. Not many teams were going to be able to do much against that repertoire of pitches he was throwing.
On the offensive side, Andre Ethier was the offensive hero with two 2-run RBI hits (a double and triple), but it is important to note that Matt Kemp who struck out nearly 1/3 of his spring training at-bats, has yet to strike out in nine plate appearances thus far. Going 4 for 9 in the first two games, and coming within an eye lash of hitting his second homer of the season tonight in his plate first appearance, Kemp exudes confidence out there. He knows he’s a superstar and he’s playing like one. There is an intangible in his swagger out there. He thinks he’s going to get a hit in every at bat. Just three days ago we were questioning his approach at the plate as he was swinging at slop low and away during the close out series of spring training against the Angels.
But tonight’s performance belongs to Chad. If he continues to pitch at even 70% of what he gave tonight, this team is going a long way.