"It was a good one, it really was," said manager Don Mattingly. "Obviously, it was something we needed to get the rock rolling in the right direction."
It's been something of an avalanche lately -- with the latest casualty being Billingsley, who became the sixth Dodgers pitcher on the disabled list, joining Zack Greinke, Chris Capuano, Ted Lilly (he comes off on Wednesday), Scott Elbert and Shawn Tolleson.
The first responder on Sunday was Fife, as he was for Billingsley last year. Triage is not always pretty, though, and Fife (who outpitched Roy Halladay last July, debuting in place of Billingsley) let the "butterflies" get to him this time in a three-run, 35-pitch first inning. The workload eventually took its toll, as he fell one out shy of qualifying for the victory.
"It definitely would have been nice to get that last out, but I definitely understand where that came from," Fife said of his removal. "I failed in one aspect, but I gave us enough of a chance to get a win. It's just not the way to start a game."
Nonetheless, Mattingly said Fife is back in the rotation "for now," as Billingsley heads to Los Angeles to see if he needs Tommy John surgery.
Also "for now," Gonzalez will bat third and Kemp fourth. It's not ideal having the slow-footed Gonzalez on the bases ahead of the speedy Kemp, but Mattingly is thinking about multiple formations once Hanley Ramirez returns to the lineup from the DL. In this game, slumping third baseman Luis Cruz was on the bench, replaced by Jerry Hairston.
"Donnie talked to us today, and he might do more of that if he feels it gives us the best chance to succeed," said Gonzalez. "I think it's great. It's about winning, not where I need to hit or where I want to hit. It's like Carl [Crawford] leading off. What he's doing is incredible, a team-first approach."
It worked pretty well in this game. Kemp had three hits -- including the tiebreaker -- a stolen base after a leadoff hit, scored an insurance run on A.J. Ellis' two-out hit in the seventh with a money slide, and did the kind of celebrating nobody's seen from him since before his shoulder operation.
"A day like today, you hope is a jumpstart to relax a little bit," said Mattingly, who acknowledged that media reminders of the offensive struggles can get in your head.
"It's got to start somewhere. Look back in a week, maybe we'll say this was a big game. If we go into New York and don't play well, you [won't] look at it like anything. It's up to us."
Gonzalez had a pair of hits, including a game-tying double in a four-run fifth inning, and scored the final run.
"I just wanted to split up the lefties [Gonzalez and Andre Ethier]," said Mattingly. "Right now, it's an easier way to mix. It puts the other [manager] in more of a bind. With Matt in the middle, he gets the lefty [reliever], which is what we want."
Mark Ellis was all over the place -- with three hits, including a two-run single off Jake Arrieta in the fifth with the bases loaded, and a run-saving defensive play in the eighth inning. The Dodgers were 1-for-19 in bases-loaded situations before Ellis' hit.
"We needed that a lot," said Ellis. "Obviously, we haven't played good baseball. But when we fell behind by three, we didn't roll over. We fought back."
And the bullpen, which has struggled since having an unhittable first week, finished off the final 4 1/3 innings with J.P. Howell (his first Dodgers win), Matt Guerrier, Paco Rodriguez, Kenley Jansen and Brandon League (his fifth save).
"Our bullpen was amazing, especially after the work they had yesterday [4 1/3 innings in the doubleheader]," said Gonzalez.
Arrieta did the Dodgers plenty of favors. In four-plus innings, he walked five and hit a batter -- with four of those freebies turning into runs.
But the Dodgers have had other pitchers try to help them out and haven't known what to do with it. This time, they cashed in.
"Up and down the lineup, we battled through at-bats," said Ellis. "Carl walked twice. Skip [Schumaker] got a big hit for us [leading to a second-inning run]. Matt had big hits. Our lineup was long today. Everybody had good at-bats, and it wore on their pitchers. In the Yankees' heyday, that's what they did."