ATLANTA — This was not the way Chad Billingsley wanted to celebrate his return after two years out of the major leagues.
Billingsley gave up five earned runs in five innings and was unable to match Shelby Miller's third career shutout in the Philadelphia Phillies' 9-0 loss to the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday night.
Billingsley, a 30-year-old right-hander, fought back from two major surgeries on his pitching arm to make his first start since April 15, 2013, for the Dodgers against San Diego. He said the result was "definitely not the way I envisioned it."
"A couple of mistakes, and I paid for it," he said. "Overall, not the results I wanted, but it was encouraging."
Despite the loss, Billingsley cherished his long-awaited return.
"It felt good to be back out there again," Billingsley said.
"It was very exciting. I just want to go back out there every fifth day and compete."
Manager Ryne Sandberg said Billingsley "showed good stuff."
"I think he pitched better than the results," Sandberg said. "It's also an outing he can build on."
Miller (4-1) needed only 99 pitches as he allowed only three hits with one walk with eight strikeouts.
"We had some awkward swings, and not too many good looks at him," Sandberg said.
Miller tossed a compliment to Billingsley (0-1).
"Obviously, he probably didn't have the start he wanted, but just getting back to the major leagues from what he has been through is special," Miller said. "You tip your hat to guys like that who battle for their career."
Freeman hit a two-run homer in the first. Johnson, who drove in four runs, hit a three-run shot in the fourth. He added a sixth-inning single for his 1,000th career hit.
Miller struck out Ryan Howard to complete his first shutout since June 17, 2014, with the Cardinals at Toronto.
Johnson leads the Braves with six homers and has 14 RBIs in his last 10 games.
Left-hander Elvis Araujo, making his major league debut, pitched around two hits in a scoreless sixth for Philadelphia. Dustin McGowan walked four batters in the seventh, including a bases-loaded walk to Johnson to force in a run. Jace Peterson and Cameron Maybin followed with run-scoring singles.
REST FOR UTLEY
Sandberg held out slumping second baseman Chase Utley, who is hitting only .103 and is 2 for 29 (.069) on the road trip.
Sandberg said it was "a pretty good possibility" Utley's break "from the mental side" will continue through Wednesday's final game of the series. Sandberg said Utley has "hit the ball very hard, right on the nose," but hasn't had any luck.
Freeman had three hits for his sixth multihit game in 10 games since April 26. In that span, he has raised his average from .219 to .301.
Phillies: Billingsley had to recover from a Tommy John procedure followed by a repair of his partially torn flexor tendon on June 24, 2014. Billingsley was signed to a one-year deal by the Phillies on Jan. 29.
Braves: The Braves designated left-handed reliever Donnie Veal for assignment before the game and recalled right-hander Brandon Cunniff from Triple-A Gwinnett. The move left Luis Avilan as the only left-hander in Atlanta's bullpen.
Phillies: RHP Jerome Williams will try for his second win over the Braves this season on Wednesday night. He allowed three runs in a 5-4 win over the Braves in Philadelphia on April 26. He is 2-3 against Atlanta in his career.
Braves: RHP Mike Foltynewicz will try to solidify his spot in Atlanta's rotation after allowing two earned runs in five innings in a 4-3 win over the Reds on Friday.