Dodgers build big lead, hang on against Cubs

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers are surging at just the right time heading into the All-Star break.

Russell Martin hit a three-run homer, All-Star Andre Ethier had a pair of RBI singles and Casey Blake drove in two runs, helping Los Angeles beat the Chicago Cubs 9-7 Friday night.

With NL West-leading San Diego losing at Colorado, Los Angeles and the Rockies are tied for second place, two games behind the Padres.

"We want to play this last week like we have something to prove," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said.

The Dodgers have won eight of 11, and they finally broke out some offense against the Cubs, who have lost the first two games of this series. Neither team had scored more than three runs in any of the previous four games between them at Dodger Stadium.

"The difference in this ballgame was that we had ample opportunities early, we didn't take advantage of it, and they took full advantage of theirs," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "We battled back to make it a ballgame, but we fell short. It's a big difference, scoring runs early and not scoring runs early. They did it, we didn't."

Chad Billingsley (7-4) won his third in a row, allowing four runs and seven hits in seven-plus innings. He struck out nine and walked four, then watched as the bullpen gave up four runs in the final two innings.

"I was able to have some quick innings in the middle of the game," Billingsley said. "Guys swung the bats good. It was nice pitching with a lead."

Ted Lilly (3-8) gave up seven runs -- five earned -- and seven hits in 3 2/3 innings, his shortest outing of the season. The left-hander struck out one, tying a season low, and walked two in losing his second straight start.

"I feel healthy, just not happy. The only thing that doesn't feel good is the way the ball's coming out of my hand the last couple of starts. Mechanically, I've got to get on top of the ball a little bit better," Lilly said.

"When you go out and pitch like that, you don't give the club a whole lot to work with and you put them in a real tough position. We scored seven runs, so you look at it and you think, if I could have done a few things differently and held it together a little bit more, maybe we're still playing right now."

The Dodgers took a 3-1 lead in the second on Martin's 15th homer, his first since May 11, a span of 46 games. It also scored James Loney, who had singled, and Blake, who walked. Loney went 2 for 3 with a double and his team-leading 59th RBI.

"James is just a hitting machine," Torre said.

Martin wasn't happy, though, having failed to block a wild pitch by Billingsley in the fifth.

"It was a brutal game," he said. "Did you see my blocking?"

Chicago pulled to 3-2 in the third on All-Star Marlon Byrd's RBI single -- the third straight two-out hit given up by Billingsley. He walked Tyler Colvin before striking out Mike Fontenot to end the inning with minimal damage.

Byrd had a season-high four hits and three RBIs in five at-bats to go with his 3-for-4 performance in the series opener. Aramis Ramirez had three hits in four at-bats, with a double and a triple.

The Dodgers added three more runs in the third on an RBI single by Ethier, Matt Kemp's RBI double and Blake's sacrifice fly that made it 6-2.

Ethier had a two-out RBI single in the fourth to chase Lilly. Blake added an RBI double in the fifth off Mitch Atkins, extending the lead to 8-3.

Loney's RBI double off Bob Howry with two outs in the sixth made it 9-3.

Chicago got a bases-loaded groundout by Fontenot in the second and Byrd's RBI groundout in the fifth.

Game notes
Piniella said RHP Carlos Silva is questionable to make his scheduled start Sunday. Silva threw a "so-so" session Friday, Piniella said, adding that he expects the pitcher to be fine after the All-Star break. Silva injured his upper right calf at Arizona on Tuesday. ... The Cubs gave SS Starlin Castro and C Geovany Soto the night off before Saturday's day game. LF Alfonso Soriano struck out as a pinch-hitter in the eighth after the Cubs scored two runs to close the gap to 9-5. ... Dodgers LF Manny Ramirez and C Brad Ausmus will be at Class-A Inland Empire on Saturday for rehab assignments. ... Dodgers fans cheered "Mr. Cub" Ernie Banks, who smiled and waved in response.