LOS ANGELES -- Matt Kemp didn't have to run the bases on his first-inning home run nearly as hard as Eric Young Jr. had to in the top half. And the Los Angeles Dodgers' slugger drove in two extra runs in the process to put Chad Billingsley on course to win his fourth straight start.
Kemp answered Young's first inside-the-park homer with his 17th of the season and first with more than one runner on base, sparking the Dodgers' 6-4 victory over Colorado on Wednesday night and helping them avoid a three-game sweep by baseball's worst pitching staff.
"I got a good pitch to hit," Kemp said of his drive to left field off Jeff Francis. "I really haven't been hitting too well with runners in scoring position the last couple of days, so I needed to do something to help us get the momentum going. We haven't been getting runs in the first couple of innings, so we definitely got to start putting runs on the board early and put pressure on the other team. The home run put some runs on the board early and gave Chad a little cushion."
The Rockies have been outscored 17-4 in the first inning during Francis' 13 starts.
"I'm happy with my preparation, but my execution at times has been pretty bad and has cost me," said the left-hander, who is 1/3 with a 6.89 ERA over his last seven outings -- a stretch in which he has allowed eight home runs. "When you give up three runs in the first inning, you just try to battle as best as you can."
The switch-hitting Young sped around the bases with his first career inside-the-park homer after driving a 2-1 pitch off the fence in center field and watching the ball bounce past Kemp and back toward the infield.
"It was exciting to run around the bases," Young said. "I put a good swing on it, saw the trajectory of it, and immediately put my head down thinking it was at least going to be a double. I knew he missed it, and rounding second I saw the third base coach was waving his arms like crazy, so I knew he was going for it and I wanted to make a final stretch for it."
Billingsley (8-9) was charged with four runs and seven hits in 6 1/3 innings and struck out five against a starting lineup that included five rookie position players. The right-hander has a 2.02 ERA in his last four starts, after going 0-5 with a 6.21 ERA in his previous five outings and landing on the disabled list because of elbow pain. He has never won more than four consecutive starts during his seven-year career.
Ronald Belisario relieved Billingsley with runners at first and second and gave up a single to Young. Gold Glove right fielder Andre Ethier misplayed it, allowing DJ LeMahieu to score and trim the Dodgers' lead to 6-4. But Belisario pitched a hitless eighth and Kenley Jansen got three outs for his 22nd save in 28 attempts.
Francis threw 73 pitches over four innings, allowing three runs and four hits and departing with the score tied 3-all. It was the sixth straight game in which a Colorado starting pitcher didn't reach the fifth inning.
The Rockies, who are going with a four-man rotation and a 75-pitch limit on each of them, have only one victory by a starter in their last 23 games. That was by Francis, a 4-2 decision at Arizona on July 25.
"It might not be what we're used to, but it's the situation we're in," Francis said. "We just keep pitching till they take the ball away. I felt like today I could have done more, but I'll be out there again soon."
Carlos Torres (1-1) took over in the fifth and found himself in a bases-loaded jam with no outs on Shane Victorino's single, a walk to Mark Ellis and an infield hit by Kemp to deep shortstop. The right-hander forced in the go-ahead run with a four-pitch walk to Hanley Ramirez, but rookie third baseman Jordan Pacheco snared a scorching line drive by Ethier and then started a 5-4-3 double play on a grounder by Juan Rivera.
The Dodgers extended their margin to 6-3 with two sixth-inning runs off Torres. After Matt Treanor was hit by a pitch Billingsley sacrificed him to second and Victorino singled him home. The "Flyin' Hawaiian" then scored all the way from first on Ellis' single to right-center.
"He's been a game-changer," Billingsley said. "He gets key hits, steals bases and can hit the ball out of the ballpark. It's good to have him at the top of the lineup."
Treanor couldn't contain his joy after his wife, Misty May-Treanor teamed up with Kerri Walsh Jennings to win their third straight Olympic gold medal in beach volleyball on Wednesday. "I didn't quite see the last few points, because we had a bad Internet connection," Treanor said before batting practice. "But as soon as we got it back, they were celebrating and she was screaming into the camera. So I knew that things were all good. My eyes were still red from crying -- and here comes Kemp, giving me a big hug and screaming: 'USA! USA!' So I'm going to see if I can't get him and a couple of the boys on a little video and send it over to Misty -- because she's been shouting us out (from London). It would be good for her to know how much these guys appreciate it. I sent her an email and I told her to wreck the town. When I get home tonight, I'll sit back and watch the end of the second game and probably do a little bit more crying, probably a lot of yelling." ... Treanor isn't the only Dodger to be married to an Olympic gold medal winner. Former 1B Todd Zeile (1997-98) has been married for 23 years to Julianne McNamara, the first American female gymnast to win the all-around title (1980) and the first female from the U.S. to earn a perfect 10.0 at the Summer Games. Former INF Nomar Garciaparra (2006-08) is married to Mia Hamm, a member of the 2004 gold medal-winning U.S. women's soccer team. ... Young's father hit two inside-the-park homers during his 15-year career. The first was against the Cubs' Dan Plesac at Coors Field on April 23, 1994, the other with Milwaukee against Jeff Austin on May 11, 2003 at Cincinnati.
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