At Stake For Billingsley
The Dos and Don'ts of baseball are largely unwritten -- they're not even available on audio CD -- and so sorting through what's proper and what's not sometimes requires guesswork. But judging by the backlash that Los Angeles pitcher Chad Billingsley faced this week, it seems he missed an obvious "Do" in his start in Game 2 of the NLCS. And he's paying a price for it.
On that night, Billingsley's mound opponent, Philadelphia's Brett Myers, threw at least three brush-back pitches at Los Angeles hitters. Twice, Manny Ramirez got the Mach 3 treatment. Billingsley answered by doing nothing. No equalizers. No inside heat. No protection.
And that's the quickest way to clubhouse damnation. Sure, the protection Los Angeles's hitters wanted from Billingsley was mostly of symbolic importance. But the Dodgers finished the game feeling exposed, a little weak. That distaste remained at least until Game 3, when Hiroki Kuroda treated Philly hitters the exact way Billingsley should have.
I'm not here to say whether Billingsley did or didn't deserve such criticism (though even staff ace/spokesman Derek Lowe said a response was merited), but it means this much for Billingsley: There is a lot riding on his start tonight. He's young, just 24. He has the makings of a future ace. But reputations in baseball, once they take root, can be tough to shake. Whatever discernable toughness Billingsley surrendered last week can be reclaimed with the right kind of outing tonight. Even if he doesn't throw inside.
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