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Chad Billingsley shines, bullpen collapses in Dodgers' 5-4 loss to Diamondbacks

September 26, 2010 |  4:21 pm

Billingsley_300 The answers to some questions sort of hover agonizingly, looking like the correct response could go a couple of ways, defying precise response.

So it is asked: What have we learned this season about right-hander Chad Billingsley?

He is the Dodgers' international man of mystery. By way of Defiance, Ohio.

Billingsley came into the year following the worst season of his four-year career (12-11, 4.03 earned-run average) and another disappointing appearance in the National League Championship Series (0-2, 12.96 ERA in two seasons).

In 2008 he was a budding ace (16-10, 3.14 ERA), at least until the NLCS. Since then, brilliant at times, struggling at others.

He started this season slowly and, given his mild-mannered demeanor, again came those questioning his mental toughness.

The definitive answer may still be elusive, but Billingsley has returned to previous form in the second half this season, which the Diamondbacks could testify after their 5-4, comeback victory over the Dodgers on Sunday afternoon.

Billingsley went seven outstanding innings, striking out 13 Diamondbacks and allowing one run on only four hits. He walked one.

At the All-Star break, Billingsley was 7-4 with a 4.14 ERA. In the second half lack of run support has left his record at 4-7, but with a 3.04 ERA.

The Dodgers were leading 4-1 when Billingsley sat down after throwing 121 pitches (81 for strikes), in position to earn the victory before once again being betrayed by the bullpen.

George Sherrill and Jonathan Broxton each gave up two-run homers in the eighth, ex-Dodger Tony Abreu’s first of the year pulling Arizona within one and then Chris Young drilling Broxton’s first pitch for the game-winner. Young was 0-for-13 against Broxton until that swing.

It wasted a brilliant performance by Billingsley. The outcome of the game, of course, is actually meaningless between these two lower division teams.

More important to the Dodgers on Sunday, was the performance of Billingsley, his increased effectiveness and building confidence.

Out of their five-man rotation, only Clayton Kershaw and Billingsley are assured of returning next season. With Ted Lilly, Hiroki Kuroda and Vicente Padilla all potential free agents, the Dodgers need to enter the off-season feeling confident about the two starters they do have returning.

And right now, Billingsley looks like a starter who can be counted upon. That might sound less than definitive, but given last season, is an answer to be welcomed.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Dodgers starting pitcher Chad Billingsley works against Arizona on Sunday in Phoenix. Credit: Jennifer Stewart / US Presswire