Cantu's Bat Trumps Haeger's Knucleball

Charlie Haeger's knuckler was dancing in Florida, but the problem was the break was so severe he couldn't keep it over the plate. He only allowed three hits, but one of them was a home run that followed a pair of walks. An error by Matt Kemp allowed another run and Cantu's two-run double in the seventh erased a 5-4 Dodgers lead.

Haeger finished his first start having allowed three hits, three earned runs and an even dozen strikeouts but that wasn't enough on this afternoon. Los Angeles out hit the Fish 11-5 but trailing by a run, left runners at first and third in the eighth and ninth innings. Pinch-hitter Andrew Ethier, Matt Kemp and James Loney all left the tying run on base in a second straight disappointing loss.

Dodgers pitching could not handle third baseman Jorge Cantu, who knocked in five of the six Marlin runs with a three-run homer and a two-run double in the seventh that turned the game around.

Los Angeles watched as 4-0, 5-3 and 5-4 leads melted in the hot Florida sun and had a long plane ride home to contemplate the fact that they might have swept the three-game series.

Haeger recorded seven strikeouts in the first three innings and and nine over four frames. But after a long top of the fourth when Los Angeles scored four times, he momentarily lost his command and walked a pair before the big home run.

Nine Dodgers also struck out, with Rafael Furcal and Kemp each tagged with two.

Ronnie Belliard, who gave Casey Blake a day off, had three more his and Kemp, between strikeouts, singled twice as did Loney. Reed Johnson, filling in for Ethier and his bad ankle, singled and tripled.

Remarkable Start
Haeger retired eight of the first nine he faced, his string marred only by a single by Anibel Sanchez, the Marlin pitcher, in the third inning.

In the top of the fourth, the Dodgers strung together four hits and scored four times. Kemp and Loney singled and when Belliard ripped a single to center, Kemp rounded third but missed the bag and had to retrace his steps. The ball skipped by the center fielder and Loney scored all the way from first. With one out, Johnson tripled to the wall in left to drive in the third run and rookie catcher A.J. Ellis, just called up to take Brad Ausmas' place who is out with a pinched nerve in his back, squeezed in the fourth run.

The long wait on the bench didn't do Haeger any favors. He walked two in a row, the allowed a three run homer to Cantu and left two runners on base in a 39-pitch frame.

The Dodgers added a run in the fifth when Belliard and Blake DeWitt singled and Ellis recorded his second RBI (without a hit) with a sacrifice fly.

Haeger breezed through the fifth, fanning two more, and retired the first two in the sixth before Kemp dropped a fly in center field to keep the inning alive. Former Dodger Cody Ross made his old team pay for the mistake with a single to left, cutting the Dodgers lead to 5-4.

Kemp's tough game continued in the seventh. After missing third base in the fourth, he was caught stealing to end the seventh and would strike out with runners at first and third in the ninth.

Jeff Weaver took over in the bottom of the seventh, allowed a single, got a fielder's choice for the first out but allowed a stolen base and walked a Marlin before Cantu came up with the decisive play of the game. He lined a shot down the left field line that landed squarely in the middle of the chalked foul line. Two runs scored and for all intents and purposes that was the game.

The Dodgers timing was terrible in the eighth and ninth. Loney singled to lead off the seventh and with two out, Johnson singled him to third. Pinch-hitter Andre Ethier couldn't duplicate his clutch hit from the game Saturday and bounced out meekly.

In the ninth, Russell Martin singled and after Furcal fanned (going 0-for-5 on the afternoon), Garret Anderson laced a single to right and Martin ended up at third. The unfortunate Kemp took a called third strike and Loney rolled to the first baseman to end the game.

The Dodgers have a day off on Monday and will celebrate their home opener on Tuesday, hosting the Arizona Diamondbacks. Pregame entertainment will include Grammy Award-winning country star LeAnn Rimes singing the National Anthem, Grammy Award-winning frontman and producer of the Black Eyed Peas throwing out a ceremonial first pitch and legendary journalist and Dodger season ticket holder Larry King announcing "It's time for Dodger Baseball" at the start of the game.

Fans can enter the stadium parking lots as early as 10:10 a.m. on Tuesday and the stadium as early as 10:40 a.m. but they are encouraged to arrive early, carpool and take the Dodger Stadium Express shuttle from Union Station to help alleviate parking congestion. The Dodger Stadium Express will pick up fans at the Patsaouras Bus Plaza adjacent to the east portal of Union Station every 10 minutes prior to the start of the game starting at approximately 11:00 a.m. and drop them off in the parking lot behind left/center field. Dodger tickets will be honored as fare.

Tuesday also marks the launch of several new seven-game ticketing plans that give fans the opportunity to purchase tickets to the June 25-27 series against the New York Yankees at Dodger Stadium. Three of the packages are focused around the popular Bleacher Beach section.

Fans will notice on Opening Day that several renovations took place at Dodger Stadium over the offseason, most notably the remodeling of the Stadium Club, which now features outdoor seating, and updates to the Dugout Club.