Billingsley relegated to Game 4; Hudson to the bench for Dodgers-Cardinals series

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In my NLDS preview the other day I blithely assumed that Chad Billingsley would pitch Game 3 for the Dodgers, but that’s apparently not the case. Vicente Padilla gets the nod. Joe Torre said that Billingsley’s simulated game “went fine” but if that were the case you’d think that the guy would be the Game 3 starter over a famously erratic guy who was designated for assignment by the Rangers for being a clubhouse cancer earlier this year.  Joe Torre has forgotten more about baseball than I’ll ever know, but I can’t help but think that he’s reading too much into Padilla’s last start. Yes, he mowed down the Rockies, but the game was meaningless and it was not exactly their starting nine.

But Billingsley isn’t the only All-Star who will be riding the pine for L.A.  Torre also named Ronnie Belliard the starting second baseman for tonight’s game.  While he and Orlando Hudson have been splitting time down the stretch, as Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness notes, Belliard has hit really well against Game 2 starter Adam Wainwright, so he is probably going to get that start as well, rendering Hudson a full-blown backup.

Both of these moves are defensible on the micro level. The big picture, however has to be rather disquieting for Dodgers fans, because teams who win World Series tend not to have to depend on guys like Vicente Padilla and Ronnie Belliard in key roles.

Video: Albert Almora, Jr. saved by the ivy

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
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The ALCS had a weird play in Game 4 on Tuesday night, but Game 4 of the NLCS did as well. This one involved Cubs outfielder Albert Almora, Jr. and his attempt to spark a rally in the bottom of the ninth inning against Dodgers reliever Ross Stripling.

After Alex Avila singled, Almora ripped a double to left field, past a diving Enrique Hernandez. The ball rolled to the ivy in front of the wall. Most outfielders there would’ve put their hands up, which would have alerted the umpires to call an immediate ground-rule double. Hernandez didn’t, instead fishing the ball out and firing it back into the infield. Avila had stopped at third base, but Almora kept running. Much to his surprise, he pulled up into third base to see his teammate standing there, resigned to his fate as a dead duck. Third baseman Justin Turner applied the tag on Almora for what he thought was the first out of the inning.

Almora, however, was then sent back to second base after the umpires correctly called a ground-rule double.

Unfortunately for the Cubs, the lucky break didn’t help as closer Kenley Jansen came in and took care of business, retiring all three batters he faced without letting an inherited runner score. The Dodgers won 6-1 and now lead the NLCS three games to none. They’ll try to punch their ticket to the World Series on Wednesday.