Kemp, Ellis Spark Victory, But Billingsley May Face Surgery

As the Dodgers' cold bats begin to thaw, another starting pitcher is lost

By Tony Castro
|  Sunday, Apr 21, 2013  |  Updated 4:13 PM PDT
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Dodgers Snap Six-Game Losing Streak by Beating Orioles

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Matt Kemp gets a high-five from teammate Ramon Hernandez after stealing a base and scoring an insurance run in Sunday's 7-4 Dodger victory over the Orioles. (Getty Images)

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The Dodgers may have found a lineup that gets the most out of its hitters in beating the Orioles Sunday at Camden Yards in Baltimore, but they lost another starting pitcher and had to put Chad Billingsley on the disabled list.

With Matt Kemp and Adrian Gonzalez switching spots in the batting order, the Dodgers produced a four-running fifth inning for a 7-4 comeback victory -- avoiding a sweep of their interleague series and ending a six-game losing streak.

In the fifth inning, Mark Ellis delivered a two-run single, Gonzalez batting in the third slot doubled in the tying run and Kemp -- taking over Gonzalez' former cleanup spot -- drove in the go-ahead run with a single.

With Billingsley out with his recurring elbow injury, the Dodgers called upon Stephen Fife, who had just been recalled from the minors, to fill in for Billingsley as he had last July. At that time, Fife made his major league debut by out-pitching veteran Roy Halladay.

But on Sunday, Fife started off looking like Barney Fife, the lovable but bumbling fictional character from the old Andy Griffith show.

He gave up three runs in that first inning in what seemed like a bad omen, given the Dodgers' offense inability his season to overcome early deficits. 

But Fife survived into the fifth inning. He didn't last that inning and couldn't be the winning pitcher, but he was bailed out by a bullpen -- J.P. Howell, Matt Guerrier, Paco Rodriguez, Kenley Jansen and Brandon League -- that returned to first week form and held the Orioles scoreless the rest of the way.

"He did a nice job of competing today, keeping us in the game," said manager Don Mattingly. "It was something that we needed. We talk about getting that rock rolling in the opposite direction, and it's got to start for us somewhere. So that's a good start for us today."

As for Billingsley, he will be examined by team doctor Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles. Neither Billingsley nor Mattingly would speculate on whether the right-hander would need season-ending Tommy John surgery, on which Billingsley took a pass last year.

Instead of surgery, he chose to undergo a strong rehab program and a treatment of platelet-rich plasma injections during the offseason – a treatment popularized when golfer Tiger Woods underwent it for a knee injury several years ago.

Billingsley joins fellow pitchers Greinke and Elbert among the growing fraternity of professional athletes who have undergone platelet-rich plasma injections in their pitching elbows.

In Billingsley’s case, baseball people are watching, seeing if his rehab and platelet-rich plasma injection treatment are a real alternative to surgery – or if it has only delayed Tommy John surgery if the ligament doesn’t hold up.

Billingsley pitched 149 2/3 innings in 25 starts last season -- posting a 3.55 ERA with128 strikeouts and 45 walks -- before suffering a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.

Meanwhile, the good news for the Dodgers Sunday was that Kemp got three of the team's eight hits. In the seventh inning, he also stole second base and scored an insurance run on A.J. Ellis single when he slid away from the Orioles catcher and tagged home plate with his hand to avoid the tag.

"I'm just glad we got the win," Kemp said after the game. "It's been a while. We've been grinding it out.

"I'm just going up to the plate, trying to have good at bats and grinding it out. It's been a slow start but we're going to try to finish strong and keep going."

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