"That's why I guess you ask me all those questions every five days," Mattingly said to reporters afterward. "I guess the mystery continues a little bit."
While accentuating the positive of Billingsley before the game, Mattingly said the reason the pitcher's pluses get overlooked is a lack of consistency, which was on display against the Angels.
"It's really a matter of, he's got to be able to execute and get the ball where he wants," Mattingly said. "You have to stop the bleeding, slow yourself down and make quality pitches and manage those innings and not let it snowball."
Billingsley (4-6) was charged with six runs on 10 hits in five innings. He's allowed 10 runs in his last 11 innings.
"We got the lead and I tried not to walk anybody and continue attacking the strike zone, that was the thought process," said Billingsley. "They're a very dangerous lineup, but I just didn't get the job done today."
Billingsley was philosophical about his latest setback.
"It's just baseball," he said. "I'll continue to go out and pitch my game. It's baseball. I've been playing a few years. I understand this game. Nothing's easy. I'll continue to go out and grind like every one of us on the team is doing."
The Dodgers' offense was led by Bobby Abreu, who was dumped by the Angels in April, plus three hits each from Juan Rivera (another Angels castoff) and Andre Ethier.
In his return to Angel Stadium, Abreu hit the first Dan Haren pitch he saw for a three-run homer in the first inning. That matched the Dodgers' run output for the entire three-game sweep in Oakland and snapped an 0-for-20 drought by Dodgers DHs. Abreu came into the game 3-for-9 off Haren with a pair of doubles and four RBIs.
"I didn't think nothing about [revenge]," Abreu said. "I was just doing the best I can do to help my team win."
The Dodgers added two runs in the second inning on RBIs by Jerry Hairston and Rivera.
But Billingsley gave back three of the runs in a 32-pitch bottom of the second -- an RBI double by Alberto Callaspo and a sacrifice fly by Howie Kendrick. In the fourth inning, Erick Aybar cut the deficit to one run with an RBI triple.
The Angels tied the game that inning on a strange squeeze bunt by Bobby Wilson back to Billingsley, who fielded the ball and flipped home, where catcher A.J. Ellis missed a swipe tag and plate umpire Dale Scott thought Aybar missed home. Ellis threw to first to get Wilson, but with Scott making no sign, Aybar came back to touch the plate and was called safe.
The Angels took the lead on the next pitch, a slider that Mike Trout belted over the fence in left-center.
Ethier ran into the wall while hauling in Kendrick's drive to save two runs in the fifth. But the Angels added to their lead off Jamey Wright in the sixth on a two-run single by Torii Hunter after a crucial walk by Trout, who turned on the jets and scored from first.
"That's the difference between the last couple months and the first month of the season," said Haren. "The first month of the season, we'd be down, 5-0, we'd have no chance. But this ballclub, we're very close, and we have each others' backs. Today, everyone was picking me up after the first two innings, saying, 'We're going to get this guy,' and sure enough, we did."
Mattingly said he couldn't fault his team's effort or concentration after the frustrations of some self-inflicted wounds during a three-game sweep in Oakland this week.
"After today, it doesn't really concern me," he said. "I was OK with the way we played today. The energy was good. At the end of the day, we got beat; we didn't give it away. We weren't able to stop them, but we had good at-bats the whole game."