Daily Distractions: Starting pitching, the secret sauce in a series loss.

Jake  Peavy

Jake Peavy allowed only a solo home run in a complete-game win over the Dodgers on Sunday. (David Crane/Staff Photographer)


The Red Sox know they caught a break over the weekend, just like the Chicago Cubs know they will not in the coming days.

Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke never threw a pitch for the Dodgers against the Red Sox. That’s a huge reason why the Dodgers dropped a series for the first time in two months. The way the Dodgers’ aces have been pitching lately, avoiding Kershaw and Greinke is like playing the Chicago Bulls between 1990 and 1993 on a night when Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen were both hurt. (That never happened, for the record.)

After the Red Sox won the final game of the series Sunday — the Dodgers’ first series loss in more than two months — manager John Farrell complimented the performance of his starting pitchers. Jake Peavy threw a complete game Sunday, John Lackey threw a complete game Friday in a loss, and Jon Lester won the middle game with 7 ⅓ strong innings.

“The credit to our team is that we’ve stayed consistent, and the only way you can stay consistent is starting pitching and those guys have done it,” Farrell said. “Those guys have done a really good job. Even when a guy has a bad outing, the next guy picks him up.”

If that were Mattingly talking about the Dodgers’ staff, no one would be surprised.

Farrell also knows that it’s a double-edged sword, that he dodged a bullet by missing Kershaw and Greinke. Greinke, who starts against the Cubs tonight, has the majors’ lowest ERA since the All-Star break (1.41). Kershaw has the lowest ERA overall this season (1.72).

“Those are two very good pitchers, in those two guys,” Farrell said. “It’s just how the schedule unfolded.”

Meanwhile, MLB.com asked Cubs manager Dale Sveum about seeing Greinke and Kershaw the next two nights. His response: “Why did you have to bring that up? Let’s talk about something else.”

OK. Let’s:
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Dodgers right-hander Chad Billingsley was full of adrenaline in his rocky first outing.

Chad Billingsley sounded like a man who was just happy to be on the field Monday. At least, happy to be there and happy to be throwing strikes.

Billingsley didn’t really have a bad thing to say about his first appearance of the spring, even though his stat line said otherwise. The right-hander allowed five hits, two runs (both earned) and struck out one batter in two innings against the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs’ first four batters of the game hit a double, double, home run and single off Billingsley, putting the Dodgers in a 2-0 hole early in a 7-6 win.

But more importantly for the 28-year-old, he was pitching again and his elbow felt fine.

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Dodgers’ Zack Greinke, a pessimist, isn’t thinking about his first start.

Wearing the same stoic expression he used to retire six of the seven batters he faced Sunday, Zack Greinke explained his approach toward spring training games in the Dodgers’ clubhouse. Zack Greinke

“I try to not pay any attention to the results,” Greinke said. “If you’re getting hit pretty hard then you have to think about it a little bit. I don’t take anything positive from it. I guess you only take the negative out, for the most part.”

It seems Greinke won’t spend much time thinking about his first appearance in a Dodgers uniform. He threw two scoreless innings that followed the script almost perfectly. Greinke tossed 11 pitches, all for strikes.

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Hyun-Jin Ryu reflects on his Dodgers debut.

Hyun-Jin Ryu’s clubhouse demeanor after his first appearance in a Dodgers uniform was much the same as it was before: Even-keeled with a dose of humor.

Ryu threw a scoreless third inning against the Chicago White Sox at Camelback Ranch. He got Blake Tekotte to ground out on a ball hit slowly back to the mound. He struck out Gordon Beckham on a changeup. He allowed a triple to DeWayne Wise that sliced into the right-field corner, then got Jeff Keppinger to fly out to left field to end the inning.

“My goal honestly was not to walk anybody today,” Ryu said. “I guess I succeeded.”

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For now, Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez has timing, confidence.

Hanley Ramirez

Maybe Hanley Ramirez was right when he said that getting game experience at shortstop in the Winter League isn’t as valuable as practicing before the game begins.

Ramirez got a chance to validate his self-confidence in the second inning Saturday. The first batter, Dayan Viciedo, hit a ground ball up the middle. Ramirez ranged to his left, fielded the ball cleanly, then spun and threw Viciedo out.

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If Dodgers pitcher Matt Magill had butterflies in his stomach Saturday, they didn’t show.

Matt Magill had never pitched in a spring training game before Saturday, but you wouldn’t have known that by the results: Matt Magill headHe and non-roster invitee Mark Lowe were the only two pitchers that didn’t allow a run in the Dodgers’ 9-0 loss to the Chicago White Sox.

Magill entered the game with two outs in the seventh inning. He quickly surrendered an infield single when shortstop Dee Gordon couldn’t pick a hard grounder off his backhand, allowing a run to score (it was charged to Kelvin De La Cruz). Magill then struck out the next three batters he faced and induced a fly ball to end the eighth inning — the only 1-2-3 inning defensively for the Dodgers.

That doesn’t always mean much in spring training, but it was a good sign that Magill was calm. For the 23-year-old from Simi Valley, that was one of two keys.

“Just go out and work on my fastball command,” he said, “and work on not getting too hyped up for the first big-league experience.”

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Clayton Kershaw allows two runs in two innings in spring training debut.

Clayton Kershaw

In one sense, Clayton Kershaw seemed like the same pitcher who has won back-to-back National League ERA titles on Saturday: He was his own harshest critic.

Kershaw allowed four hits, including an Armando Rios double, and two earned runs in his two-inning Cactus League debut. Unfortunately for the Dodgers, it set the tone in a 9-0 loss to the Chicago White Sox.
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Dodgers-Cubs Spring Training game will benefit Christina-Taylor Green Memorial Foundation.

The Dodgers and Cubs announced they will play a Spring Training game at Kino Veterans Memorial Stadium in Tucson on Thursday, March 21 at 1 p.m. with all proceeds going to the Christina-Taylor Green Memorial Foundation.

The foundation was established by the Green family in 2011 to receive gifts in memory of Christina-Taylor, the daughter of Dodgers scout John Green and granddaughter of former Cubs GM Dallas Green.

This will mark the Dodgers’ third annual benefit game in Tucson dating to 2011, when the Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks played a similar benefit game in Tucson with all proceeds going to the Tucson Together Fund. In addition, The Dodgers Dream Foundation, in partnership with the Diamondbacks, dedicated a Dodgers Dreamfield in Oro Valley, Ariz. on a field that was re-named in memory of Christina-Taylor Green.

“We are very excited the Cubs agreed to play the Dodgers for this year’s game,” John Green said in a statement released by the team. “This game brings everything full circle for me since I played in the Cubs organization and my Dad (Dallas) was their General Manager.”

The mission of the Christina-Taylor Green Memorial Foundation is “to honor the life and memory of Christina-Taylor through charitable and educational projects that reflect and embody her interests, values and dreams.”

Brewers 9, Dodgers 4; Dodgers 6, Cubs 3.

Tempers flared in a loss to the Brewers in Glendale, and the Dodgers rapped out 11 hits to beat the Cubs in Mesa, in the team’s final day of split-squad action in spring training.

Both benches were warned in the sixth inning of a 9-4 loss to Milwaukee after Dodgers starter Chris Capuano threw a pitch behind Ryan Braun. That followed a series of hit batters –one (Norichika Aoki) by Capuano and two (Jerry Hairston Jr. and Juan Rivera) by Milwaukee pitchers earlier in the game.

That was the end of the drama, however, and the Brewers scored eight runs over the final three innings to erase a 4-2 deficit.

Capuano allowed two hits, one (earned) run on a solo shot by Braun, walked one and struck out seven in six innings. His Cactus League ERA stands at 2.75. Matt Guerrier relieved him in the seventh inning and gave up a 3-run home run to the first batter he faced, Brooks Conrad, in his first game since March 11.

Guerrier was actually pitching his third game in five days, including minor-league games, and afterward declared himself free of any back pain and healthy to start the season.

“As far as I am concerned, (the injury) was over a week ago,” he said.

The Brewers’ Carlos Gomez hit a three-run home run off losing pitcher Jamey Wright in the seventh inning. Todd Coffey gave up three hits and four runs — none earned, thanks to a Jake Lemmerman error –in two-thirds of an inning. His spring ERA ballooned to 7.71.

Andre Ethier doubled and homered in four at-bats, giving him 15 extra-base hits among his 18 this spring.
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White Sox 3, Dodgers 1.

Aaron Harang threw six strong innings, but the White Sox (11-15) prevailed against the Dodgers (12-11-4) before an announced crowd of 5,091 at Camelback Ranch. [box score]

Harang allowed six hits — all singles — walked one, and struck out six in six innings. Three of those singles came in the fifth inning, allowing Chicago to score its only run against the 6-foot-7 right-hander. Harang threw 104 pitches, 66 for strikes, and left with the score tied 1-1. In his last two starts, spanning 11 innings, he has allowed two runs and 11 hits.

Reliever Josh Lindblom allowed a solo home run to Trayce Thompson in the seventh inning and Scott Rice served up an RBI single to Adam Dunn in the eighth.

The Dodgers got their only run when Josh Fields singled and came around to score on an A.J. Ellis sacrifice fly in the fifth inning.

Two days after bunting a ball into his groin, Juan Uribe went 2-for-3. Juan Rivera doubled and a single by Ellis accounted for the Dodgers’ fifth hit of the game.

A few more notes:

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