Zito earns first win in six attempts as Giants overcome Billingsley, Dodgers

LOS ANGELES -- The San Francisco Giants' offense consisted of an infield RBI single and two sacrifice flies -- one of them in foul territory.

Barry Zito was more than grateful, after three no-decisions in which he pitched equally as well.

Zito outpitched Chad Billingsley to record his first win of the season on his sixth attempt, and the Giants beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-1 on Friday night.

"We had to scratch some runs across," Zito said. "You've got to manufacture them, especially against Billingsley. They've got a great defense, so we played the game the way it was supposed to be played and we got our runs in the fashion that we knew we would have to."

The defending NL champion Dodgers have lost both games they've played since slugging left fielder Manny Ramirez was suspended for 50 games by Major League Baseball for using a banned drug. At the time of the suspension, they were a major league-best 21-8.

"They have a great lineup and Manny adds that much more to it. But it's still a great lineup without him," Zito said after the Giants trimmed the Dodgers' division lead to 4 1/2 games. "That team's in first place for a reason. This is a big series for us, to come down here, make a statement and say, 'Hey, we're not going to roll over in this division."

Manager Bruce Bochy played down Ramirez's absence.

"I don't look at it as a break," Bochy said. "Sometimes when you talk about one player like that, you forget about how talented the other guys are that they have. That's a good lineup."

Zito (1-2) allowed a run and eight hits over six innings. He struck out five, walked two and escaped a bases-loaded jam in the fifth. The 2002 AL Cy Young winner was removed for a pinch-hitter in the seventh when his teammates broke a 1-all tie with Edgar Renteria's sac fly and Pablo Sandoval's run-scoring infield hit.

"It was great to get Barry a win, the way he threw the ball," Bochy said. "He's just commanding all his pitches on both sides of the plate and using any pitch at any time. His stuff has picked up and so has his command."

Pitching coach Dave Righetti is impressed at the way the way Zito has pitched under the gun without much run support.

"He's done a good job of that," Righetti said. "You've got to concentrate on pitching your game, and shutting the other team down, because you never know when you're going to get runs."

Brian Wilson, who hadn't pitched since last Sunday, worked 1 1-3 innings for his seventh save in eight chances after Merkin Valdez walked two batters with two out.

Wilson's last three saves have required four outs each. The right-hander ended the eighth inning by slipping a called third strike against Casey Blake, who fouled off six two-strike pitches during his 13-pitch at-bat.

"I don't like using him in those situations, but we're being forced to," Bochy said. "We prepared him for this in the spring, going multiple innings."

Billingsley (5-1) gave up three runs and eight hits over seven innings, struck out five and walked four. The right-hander, who came in 4-0 with a 3.21 ERA against San Francisco, matched zeros with Zito through five innings before the Giants broke through with a run in the sixth.

Aaron Rowand lifted a flyball down the right-field line with runners at the corners and one out. Andre Ethier raced in and made a backhanded catch in foul territory and bounced off the short wall in front of the box seats as Renteria tagged up and scored.

"In that situation, if you let it go, it could turn into a three-run inning," manager Joe Torre said. "It was still early in the game -- sixth inning -- so you give them the run. Down in that corner there's little foul territory, so you're not sure whether it's foul or fair. The only time you want to let the ball go is in the ninth or 10th."

Game notes
The way Ramirez's contract is structured, he will lose $2,732,240 this season and $1,366,120 in each of the next three years -- a saving of 6,830,600 for the Dodgers. "I haven't taken into consideration the financial aspects of this," GM Ned Colletti said. "My main concern is the same today as it was Wednesday, and that's our pitching -- starting and relieving. I feel right now we need to upgrade it, whether it's internally or externally." ... Giants C Bengie Molina got the night off. Sandoval threw out Juan Pierre at third base on the front and of an attempted double steal to end the third with Ethier -- the Dodgers' RBI leader -- at the plate.

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