ST. LOUIS -- In the city where Yogi Berra was born and raised, it initially sounded like a case of déjà vu all over again.
But upon further review, Dodgers right-hander Chad Billingsley's claim he was making good pitches as he was getting rocked by the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday night might have been more credible this time.
In this case, Billingsley at least had some corroboration.
After the Dodgers' second consecutive pounding by the Cardinals, this time 8-4 before 44,074 at Busch Stadium, Billingsley said he felt he was making good pitches, that he was happy with his location and that the Cardinals' hitters were simply finding holes. The comments were eerily similar to those Billingsley made after an April 20 start in Cincinnati, when he gave up seven runs and seven hits in a loss to the Reds and was gone after the third inning.
Those statements led to a closed-door meeting the next day with manager Joe Torre and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt in which the message was conveyed to Billingsley that in no way, shape or form was he making quality pitches. Billingsley apparently took that message to heart, because beginning with his next start, he mounted a two-month surge in which he was more than adequate in every outing and outstanding in a handful of them.
This is what Billingsley said late Friday night, after giving up seven runs and 10 hits over four innings, including at least one run in each of the five innings he started:
"I wasn't really struggling. They put balls in play, found holes and made things happen. I felt I threw the ball pretty well. It was just one of those days."
Honeycutt said he would reserve judgment until he had a chance to review Billingsley's disastrous outing on video.
"They were able to hit them where they weren't, that's for sure," Honeycutt said. "The only ball I really looked at on the screen was the one where [Tyler] Greene got a base hit up the middle, and it looked like it was well-located. One thing about making pitches is making them in the right sequence. It seemed like he was never really consistently ahead [in counts]. I don't think his curveball, which is one of his major pitches, ever really came into play tonight."
Honeycutt said there were other pitches, including one Randy Winn hit for a two-run triple, that were supposed to be inside but ended up being over the plate.
"It was just like he wasn't able to get into the right counts, plus, after the first inning, every leadoff hitter was on," he said.
Dodgers catcher Russell Martin supported the claims of Billingsley (7-5).
"I don't feel like he pitched that badly, you know?" Martin said. "There were a few spots where he was ahead in the count and couldn't put the guy away. It was like he just didn't have that putaway pitch. But [Albert] Pujols hit a good pitch [for a leadoff single in the third]. They hit some good pitches. I thought he had pretty good command of his pitches."
But the result is the thing, and the result this time meant that the Dodgers (49-41) fell into a third-place tie with San Francisco in the National League West, 3½ games behind division-leading San Diego.
Billingsley, meanwhile, suffered his first loss in more than a month, a stretch that included a stint on the disabled list because of a groin injury. In his first three starts since returning from the DL, he was 1-0 with a 3.32 ERA.
Dodgers right-hander Hiroki Kuroda (7-7, 3.87 ERA) has given up only two earned runs over 13 innings in his two career starts against the Cardinals, including seven shutout innings against them June 8 at Dodger Stadium in a game in which Kuroda got no decision, but the Dodgers eventually won 1-0. Kuroda will need to be that good again in Saturday's late-afternoon game. For the second time in three games, the Dodgers will be facing a Cardinals All-Star. This time, it's right-hander Adam Wainwright (13-5, 2.11), whose 1.43 home ERA is second in the majors behind Cardinals rookie left-hander Jaime Garcia. The Dodgers faced Garcia on Friday after facing the Cardinals' other All-Star, Chris Carpenter, on Thursday.
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.