SAN DIEGO -- If two of the Dodgers' big question marks this season are whether Chad Billingsley can step up and Andre Ethier can bounce back, the answers Friday night were encouraging.Billingsley went 8 1/3 innings with 11 strikeouts and Ethier drove in four runs off left-hander Cory Luebke with a triple and double as the Dodgers blanked San Diego, 6-0. "It was a great outing for Chad, a good start for him, and Andre bops a lefty, it's a good start for us," said manager Don Mattingly. Cameron Maybin lined Billingsley's 108th pitch for a one-out single in the ninth, and Mattingly brought the hook. Mattingly said it wasn't a tough call. "I can't do it the first time out, not going to let him run to 120," said Mattingly. "He knew it. He wanted to go back out, but if one guy got on, he knew it." After Clayton Kershaw lasted only three innings Opening Day before he was felled by the flu, forcing six innings out of the bullpen, Mattingly was more than satisfied by what Billingsley gave him, and the pitcher didn't protest his removal for Jamey Wright. "You never want to come out of a game, but the first game after 100 pitches, you don't go overboard in the first outing," said Billingsley. It was Mattingly who said over the winter that Billingsley, who went 11-11 last year with a career-high 4.21 ERA, is "better than that" and needed to "step up." Billingsley, however, scuffled in the spring with a 5.91 ERA and in his last start could not command his cutter. For this game, Billingsley said he used the cutter to the right side of the plate and the slider to the left. The Padres had only three hits. "It was just one of those days when everything felt really good," he said. Billingsley is 12-8 in his career against San Diego, the most wins he has against any opponent. Only three of Billingsley's outs came on fly balls to the outfield. Of his 11 strikeouts, he fanned Chase Headley three times. "I've probably faced him 100 times, and I've never seen him pitch like that," Headley said. "He's a great pitcher, an All-Star, but we couldn't figure him out." Billingsley is in the first year of a three-year contract extension he signed last spring, only days after Ethier believed he was about to sign an extension. Those talks broke down, and Ethier is eligible for free agency after this season. Resuming his Spring Training rampage after an 0-for-3 Opening Day, Ethier seems to be in full salary drive mode with new ownership arriving at the end of the month. It's particularly important that both extra-base hits were driven off a left-handed pitcher. Mattingly benched James Loney because of his struggles against lefties the past two seasons and had indicated he planned to do the same with Ethier until he lit up lefties in the Cactus League. "Obviously that was a big focus," said Ethier. "Donny and [hitting coach Dave] Hansen put a lot of effort during the spring to get me back to staying closed and giving me a better shot to the right approach and fix the swing problems from last year." Ethier, however, also said September knee surgery allows him to forcefully plant his right leg and create the torque he needs for power. The Dodgers got the two-run double by Ethier in the first inning, which would have been bigger except that Matt Kemp got Petco Parked by the big dimensions, and his fly ball was caught at the wall by right fielder Will Venable. That rally started with a single by Mark Ellis, who triggered a third-inning rally with a broken-bat double. Kemp followed with a chopper to third baseman Headley, whose throw pulled first baseman Yonder Alonso off the bag. As Ellis rounded third and headed for the plate, Alonso's throw was wild. Ellis scored and Kemp went to second. Kemp took third on a wild pickoff throw from Luebke and Juan Rivera, who singled during the first-inning rally, blooped an RBI single off the glove of stumbling shortstop Jason Bartlett in shallow left field to score Kemp. In the fifth, Kemp singled, stole second, Rivera walked and Ethier sent his two-run triple to the 400-foot sign in right-center, chasing Luebke. Ellis, Kemp and Rivera scored two runs each. Rivera played first base and batted fourth. Ethier batted fifth and Jerry Hairston started in left field.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.