The oddest sight of an already strange season for the Dodgers might have come Wednesday night.
Angel Berroa made a curtain call.
Starting the season with the triple-A affiliate of a non-contender, the former American League rookie of the year found himself in the middle of the Dodgers' 6-4 victory over the San Diego Padres at Dodger Stadium, his first major league home run in almost two years and key sixth-inning defensive play helping his team complete a three-game sweep and stay within 1 1/2 games of the first-place Arizona Diamondbacks in the NL West.
"A good part about this game is that you're going to have surprises," Manager Joe Torre said. "These are the kinds of surprises that make you feel good. For a club to win, you have to have that unexpected help."
Included in the group that Torre was talking about was rookie Blake DeWitt, who was asked to move to second base to replace Jeff Kent. DeWitt's second home run in as many days immediately preceded Berroa's blast in a four-run fourth inning for the Dodgers, marking the first time this season that the Dodgers had hitters go deep back-to-back.
Casey Blake homered in the eighth to give the Dodgers a two-run cushion.
The long ball by Berroa, who has started in place of a fatigued Nomar Garciaparra for the last five games, was what brought the crowd of 48,882 to their feet.
"Playing every day is different," said Berroa, who spent almost two years with the Kansas City Royals' triple-A affiliate in Omaha. "It's allowed me to get in a rhythm."
Berroa seemed ill-prepared for the ovation, as he was late to emerge from the dugout. So was Hiroki Kuroda, who until this season played baseball in Japan, where curtain calls don't exist.
Berroa's premature exit from the dugout and Kuroda's early entry into the batter's box forced the .235 hitter to wave his cap to the crowd as Padres starter Wade LeBlanc was delivering a pitch.
"I didn't know what was going on," Kuroda said, laughing. "I thought they were cheering for me."
Kuroda (8-10) had trouble with his command, giving up four runs and 10 hits over 5 1/3 innings. But that was enough to beat LeBlanc (0-1), who was charged with five runs and eight hits in his major league debut.
Berroa helped preserve Kuroda's win in the sixth, knocking down a line drive by Luis Rodriguez that seemed heading to center field and throwing to second for an inning-ending force.
The Dodgers will resume play Friday, when they host the Diamondbacks in the opener of a three-game series.
Until next week, the Dodgers won't have to glance up at the scoreboard or scream at the clubhouse television, as they did Wednesday while watching the Diamondbacks' come-from-behind victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.
"No!" Russell Martin shouted as Stephen Drew drove a ball to center field to lead off the bottom of the ninth with the Diamondbacks trailing, 3-2.
"Get him!" Berroa called as Drew slid into third base safely.
Though the Dodgers and Diamondbacks have spent the majority of their seasons hovering around .500, Torre said that, yes, this did feel like a pennant race.
"You're basically playing match play from here," Torre said. "It's one game at a time."