PHOENIX — Dodger Stadium will be turned into a circus of sorts today for the Dodgers' home opener, decorated with flags and roamed by stilt walkers and face painters. What is likely to be an over-the-top ceremony will precede the first pitch Chad Billingsley throws against the San Francisco Giants.
But the truly absurd already took place Sunday in Arizona, where Manager Joe Torre manufactured a run with his voice when the Dodgers had trouble doing so with their bats.
By reminding the officiating crew of an obscure rule unknown to most of the players at Chase Field, Torre essentially argued in the tying run in the Dodgers' 3-1 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks.
"I still don't really understand the rule," said pitcher Dan Haren, the victim of Dodgers bench coach Bob Schaefer's encyclopedic knowledge of baseball's on-field legislation.
Heads were shaking in the Dodgers' clubhouse too.
"That was really weird," pitcher Randy Wolf said.
No matter. The run counted.
James Loney singled in the go-ahead run in the third inning, Wolf pitched seven masterful innings and Matt Kemp drove in a run in the ninth inning to send the Dodgers home from their season-opening trip with a 4-3 record.
"Baseball is three outs, I thought," Andre Ethier said.
Turns out sometimes a team has to get four.
The play in question occurred in the second inning, at which point the Dodgers trailed, 1-0.
With Ethier at third base and Juan Pierre on second, Wolf lined out to Haren, who threw the ball to Felipe Lopez to record the third out. Instead of touching second base, Lopez tagged Pierre.
Pierre, who was caught between second base and third base, had stopped in his tracks. In the time it took Lopez to run to Pierre and apply the tag, Ethier had run home, albeit without tagging up.
"When it happened, Bob Schaefer said, 'That's the four-out play,' " Torre said. "I remembered because he had put some of the rules on my desk this spring and we read them to the players a number of times last year."
When the Diamondbacks returned to their dugout, Torre emerged from his concrete den to protest that the run should count.
Ethier had touched home before Pierre was tagged out, Torre argued. That Ethier didn't tag up was inconsequential because the Diamondbacks ran off the field without appealing at third base, basically, touching the bag with ball in hand.
"I never doubted it," Pierre said. "I knew it all the way. That's why I stopped."
Pierre started laughing.
"I had you all going," he said, shaking his head.
In fact, Pierre said that as he walked back to his defensive station in center field, he was lamenting having given up on the play.
"Good thing I stopped," he said.
Ethier, who had been told to run on contact, also had no idea what had happened.
Unbeknown to him, if Lopez had tagged Pierre for the third out before he had reached home, the run would not have counted.
"Joe's been reiterating all spring to run out everything," Ethier said. "That's where it paid off."
Asked why he didn't touch the bag instead of pursuing Pierre, Lopez replied, "Yeah, looking back, I should have done something like that. It was one of those crazy plays. I didn't know what was going on."
The only player who said he did was Furcal, who recalled making the same mistake Lopez made playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic a couple of years ago.
"That's the only reason I know," Furcal said.