Reporting from Miami
Charlie Haeger said his knuckleball was dancing more than usual — that translated into plenty of strikeouts, but also plenty of unpredictability.
Taking his first turn in the rotation as the Dodgers' fifth starter, Haeger struck out 12 batters in the first six innings of a 6-5 loss to the Florida Marlins on Sunday at Sun Life Stadium.
But two of the 12 batters resulted in a man standing on first because of dropped third strikes. Four hitters walked.
Haeger's three wild pitches were tied for the most by a Dodgers pitcher since 2000.
Two of the walks were particularly costly for Haeger, who was charged with four runs (three earned) and three hits.
They were the ones Haeger issued back-to-back to Cameron Maybin and Hanley Ramirez to start the third inning, which set up a three-run home run by Jorge Cantu.
"I'm going to give up home runs," Haeger said. "I want to make sure they're solo home runs."
The Dodgers' 4-0 lead was reduced to 4-3.
"It's always something you preach, about minimizing damage," Manager Joe Torre said. Recalling the home run given up by Vicente Padilla the previous night, he added, "The three-run homer last night and the three-run homer today were the backbreakers."
Catcher A.J. Ellis, who was recalled from triple A on Saturday, acknowledged that catching Haeger was a challenge.
"The ones that frustrated me were the ones on the ground," he said. "As soon as the balls hit the ground, I should block those."
Scoreless streak ends for Weaver
Plagued in the first week of the season by problems with starting pitching, porous defense and George Sherrill, the Dodgers' meltdown Sunday came from an unlikely source: Jeff Weaver.
In what was already his fifth appearance of the season, Weaver gave up two runs in the seventh inning to turn a 5-4 lead to a 6-5 deficit. The decisive blow was struck by Cantu, who hit a two-run double down the left-field line.
The runs were the first charged to Weaver this season. And the appearance was the first in which he entered the game at the start of an inning.
The new role has suited Weaver well; he has allowed only one of six inherited runners to score.
"Sometimes it's easier to get out of somebody else's mess than your own," Torre said.
But Weaver, who started seven games and finished five last year, said he knows better than to get used to any specific role.
"We have a long ways to go," he said. "There are going to be a lot of variables."
Andre Ethier, who hasn't started any of the last four games because of a swollen left ankle, is expected to be back in the lineup Tuesday.... Ethier and Matt Kemp will be presented their Silver Slugger awards in an on-field ceremony at the Dodgers' home opener. Kemp will also receive his Gold Glove award.… Country musician LeAnn Rimes will sing the national anthem. Will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas will throw out the ceremonial first pitch.… Hong-Chih Kuo threw a bullpen session and could be sent on a minor-league rehabilitation assignment this week.