Player of the Week: Chad Billingsley, Dodgers

It’s too bad that Billingsley resides in the NL West, home to a host of the majors’ best pitchers, because the Los Angeles Dodgers’ second-year pro has certainly pitched well enough to make a name for himself. Over his last two starts, both wins, Billingsley allowed just three earned runs while striking out 15 in 14 innings. His win over the San Diego Padres on Sept. 2 was especially impressive, as Billingsley pitched seven shutout innings while allowing only four hits in the key division victory. Entering today’s start against the Giants, Billingsley is 10-4 with a 3.30 ERA.

BASEBALL STORY LINES

1 It’s difficult to surmise the most impressive aspect of Clay Buchholz’s no-hitter against the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday. Could it be that he was the first rookie in Boston Red Sox history to fire a no-no? Or, how about him pulling off the feat in just his second career game, on a day he wasn’t even scheduled to start? Anyway you look at it, Buchholz’s no-hit, nine-strikeout, three-walk performance in the Red Sox’s 10-0 win was the stuff of baseball legend. However, the 23-year-old right-hander, who was called up from the minor leagues just hours before his start, had little time to enjoy his historical feat as a starting pitcher. The front office, fearing another start could damage the arm of their young prospect, quickly shuffled Buchholz to the bullpen after the no-hitter.

2 Ichiro Suzuki, the Seattle Mariners’ Japanese superstar, tied Wade Boggs’ American League record of seven straight seasons with at least 200 base hits when he homered off New York Yankees right-hander Roger Clemens on Monday. Suzuki, who has at least 200 hits in every one of his major-league seasons, wasn’t the only player reaching a milestone. New York Mets pitcher Pedro Martinez picked up four strikeouts in his first appearance of the season Tuesday, becoming the 15th pitcher in baseball history to record 3,000 K’s. Meanwhile, Florida Marlins slugger Miguel Cabrera became the third-youngest player in history to drive in 500 runs when he delivered a run-scoring single in the fifth inning against the Washington Nationals, also on Tuesday.

3 It’s been proven that different players respond differently to different situations and the recent actions of Carl Crawford and Carlos Zambrano have once again proven that edict correct. Crawford, with his team light-years from the playoffs, exploded at umpire Paul Nauert and nearly jumped over Tampa Bay first base coach George Hendrick after being called out at first on a grounder in a game against the Orioles on Monday. Unlike Crawford, Zambrano finds himself in the thick of a playoff chase with the Chicago Cubs and the pressure of the postseason hunt may be getting to him. Zambrano angrily criticized fans who booed him after his performance Monday against the Los Angeles Dodgers in which he allowed eight earned runs in just 4¹/³ innings. Zambrano, who has since apologized for his remarks against the fans, has a 9.56 ERA since signing a contract extension Aug. 17.

— Will Reisman

KEY SERIES

MARINERS AT TIGERS (Today-Sunday): Neither of these postseason contenders have been playing inspiring ball lately, but both remain in the hunt for the AL wild card. Adrian Beltre and the Mariners lost nine straight to close out August and open up September, while the Tigers haven’t been much better.

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