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Dodgers start doubleheader with win behind Tony Gwynn Jr.

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Tony Gwynn Jr., the forgotten Dodger?

The glamour guys in the outfield are Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier. The surprising run-producing addition is Juan Rivera. The hot prospect is Jerry Sands.

And Gwynn?

He’s given the Dodgers just about all they hoped for when he signed a one-year contract in the off-season: great outfield defense, speed on the bases, a respectable .257 batting average, and on a damp Thursday as a bonus, a game-winning double.

In the first game of a doubleheader, Gwynn lined his ninth-inning double into the right-center gap to drive in two, break up a tie game and lead the Dodgers to a 7-4 victory over the Nationals in Washington.

Rain had started to fall when the Dodgers started their one-out rally against Washington reliever Drew Storen after he hit Sands with a pitch and Rod Barajas singled.

Storen struck out pinch-hitter Trent Oeltjen, but then up stepped Gwynn. He lined the first pitch he saw for what would be the game-winning double. Then he stole third and scored on Dee Gordon’s single -– his fourth hit of the game.

The Dodgers gave Chad Billingsley an early 4-0 lead and he couldn’t hold it. His command, again, was seriously off. His consistency mere rumor.

The Dodgers scored twice in the first and twice in the second, with almost identical rallies.

In the first against Washington starter Chien-Ming Wang, Gordon led off with a single and James Loney doubled him to third. Gordon was thrown out in a rundown when Matt Kemp bounced to third.

Rivera then doubled in both runners.

The Dodgers liked the concept so much, they repeated it in the third: Gordon singled, went to third on a Loney base hit, Gordon was thrown out at the plate on a Kemp bouncer to third and then a two-run double by Rivera, though this one was horribly played by left-fielder Michael Morse.

But Billingsley was unable to make the lead stand, surrendering four runs in the bottom of the third. An Ian Desmond single, one-out doubles by Ryan Zimmerman and Morse, followed by a two-run homer by Jayson Werth and it was a tie game.

Even though it was the first game of a doubleheader, when Rick Ankiel then doubled, manager Don Mattingly lifted Billingsley. The 2-1/3 innings, was the shortest outing for a Dodgers starter this season.

Billingsley complained his mechanics were troubling him in his last start, and something clearly is amiss. In his last eight starts, Billingsley has a 5.44 ERA with 52 hits, 25 walks and 26 strikeouts in 43 innings.

The Dodgers bullpen of Josh Lindblom, Hong-Chih Kuo, Matt Guerrier, Kenley Jansen, Mike MacDougal (3-1) and Javy Guerra held the Nationals scoreless and hitless the last 6-2/3 innings, Guerra earning his 16th save.

RELATED:

Dodgers-Nationals box score (Game 1)

Andre Ethier shut down for the season

Dodgers beat Nationals, 7-3

Frank McCourt is offered $1.2 billion for Dodgers

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Tony Gwynn Jr. hits a two-run double during the ninth inning of the Dodgers' 7-4 victory over the Washington Nationals in the first game of a doubleheader on Thursday. Credit: Evan Habeeb / U.S. Presswire

 
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