The fans in right field began serenading Andre Ethier midway through the home opener Tuesday, singing several choruses of ''Happy Birthday'' and raising drinks in honor of both the outfielder's 30th birthday and Dodger Stadium's 50th anniversary.
On such a celebratory day for this revitalized franchise, Ethier felt he couldn't send those fans home without a win.
Ethier hit a tiebreaking homer with two outs in the eighth inning Tuesday, sending the Los Angeles Dodgers to a 2-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
''I guess that's a good birthday present for this stadium, too,'' Ethier said.
Exactly 50 years after Dodger Stadium opened, Ethier hit a solo shot off Jason Grilli (0-1) before emerging from the dugout for a curtain call that didn't seem out of place, even in early April.
Ethier and Clayton Kershaw both noticed the sellout crowd buzzing throughout the afternoon, fairly pulsating with something more than the usual spring optimism of baseball fans. After two years of mediocrity on the field and increasingly bizarre developments in the front office of Southern California's much-loved team, the Dodgers are off to a 4-1 start to their first season since resolving Frank McCourt's messy ownership tenure.
''Everybody is excited about what's going on right now, and rightfully so,'' said Ethier, starting his seventh season with the Dodgers. ''The vibe in this stadium today, that's an addicting feeling. We had that for several years here, and then it went away, and part of that was how we were playing on the field. It felt good to look up and see that support again.''
Matt Kemp drove in a run in a club record-tying ninth straight game with a first-inning groundout for the Dodgers, but Matt Hague's RBI grounder in the seventh evened it. Los Angeles couldn't capitalize on seven strong innings from Kershaw, with Pittsburgh's Kevin Correia largely matching the NL Cy Young Award winner.
Kenley Jansen (1-0) pitched the eighth, and Javy Guerra pitched the ninth for his third save.
''Even in camp, these guys were fired up about what we thought we could do,'' Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. ''It seems like we're going to be in a lot of close games this season, no matter what. We're going to have to get big hits and big outs when we need them, and we did that today.''
The Dodgers began the 50th-anniversary celebration of their ballpark with numerous tributes to their venerable stadium while welcoming back several members of their 1962 roster, including Maury Wills and Tommy Davis. Two notable figures didn't join the festivities, however: broadcaster Vin Scully stayed home to nurse a cold, and prospective new Dodgers co-owner Magic Johnson was away in New York.
Kershaw allowed four hits and struck out seven, bouncing back from his first start last week in San Diego, which ended after three innings because of an illness that lingered until recently. He failed to win at home for just the third time in 14 starts, but still hasn't lost at Dodger Stadium since early last season.
Pittsburgh opened a nine-game trip with just five hits against Kershaw and the Dodgers' bullpen. After Grilli yielded the decisive homer, Andrew McCutchen grounded into a game-ending double play.
''I love the adversity,'' Grilli said. ''If I don't, then I shouldn't be doing this. But I relish it. I mean, I'm not happy about what happened today, but I can't wait to get the ball the next time, because I'm going to win that battle. I guess the good thing about being a reliever is that you can come back out tomorrow and redeem yourself and be a hero.''
Correia yielded four hits and two walks over six innings in his season debut for Pittsburgh after missing the final six weeks of last season with a strained oblique.
''It's a small sample, but we've been pitching great,'' Pirates catcher Rod Barajas said. ''But we've had some tough matchups: (Roy) Halladay, (Cliff) Lee, (Cole) Hamels, and then we get Kershaw, but we're competing day in and day out. So no matter who's on the mound, we're going to battle. Hopefully we come out on top more often than not.''
Notes: The Beach Boys, who are also celebrating their 50th anniversary this year, performed before the game and sang the national anthem. Brian Wilson and his fellow members wore Dodgers jerseys with No. 50 on the back. ... Dee Gordon led off the first with a single and scored on a groundout by Kemp, who tied the franchise record for consecutive games with an RBI shared by Roy Campanella and Augie Galan.... Chad Billingsley goes for his second win of the young season when he takes the mound for the Dodgers on Wednesday night against Pittsburgh's Erik Bedard.
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