Not long ago pitcher Chad Billingsley was chatting with Don Mattingly when the Dodgers manager asked him:

" 'Chad, do you ever get tired about answering the questions? Because I get tired of answering the questions,'" Mattingly recalled. "And he said, 'I'm used to it now.'"

The recurring questions boil down to: Will Billingsley ever again come close to winning 16 games in a season as he did early in his career in 2008? . . . Or is he destined to remain the .500 or so pitcher he's been ever since? . . . And why is he so unsteady?

It's a conundrum that won't go away for Dodgers followers, who endlessly debate Billingsley's inconsistency, because of outings like the one he had Friday in Anaheim.

Staked to an early 5-0 lead against the Angels, Billingsley promptly gave up six runs and 10 hits and left after five innings in the Dodgers' 8-5 defeat.

His record fell to 4-6 and his earned-run average rose to 4.15, highest among the Dodgers' five starters.

It was Billingsley's second consecutive loss; six days earlier he allowed five runs (four earned) in six innings against the Chicago White Sox.

Yet he was stellar in his first two starts in June, against Philadelphia and Seattle, allowing only one run in seven innings in each game.

That's the rub with Billingsley — he's sharp as a tack at times, wholly ineffective at others.