The Pittsburgh Pirates thought Lenny Harris should have won an acting award. The Dodgers thought he deserved a medal of valor.
The only thing everyone agreed on Thursday was that, in a memorable ninth inning, Tom Lasorda earned both.
Arms pumping, eyes bulging, Lasorda sprinted to the field and persuaded umpire Ed Rapuano to rule that a strike-three foul tip actually hit Harris on the hand.
Harris took first base, and moments later the Dodgers took a 3-2 victory on Alfredo Griffin's run-scoring single before 26,377 at Three Rivers Stadium.
"Tommy took care of me," Harris said afterward while proudly displaying a swollen knuckle on the middle finger of his right hand. "Because to tell you the truth, I didn't know what the heck was going on."
Neither did the Pirates, who watched a 2-0 lead fall to Stan Javier's two-run triple in the sixth inning. The two first-place teams then battled for two scoreless innings before Javier began the ninth inning against Randy Tomlin with a line-drive single to right field.
Up stepped Harris, who had already scraped his left arm on a diving catch of a bunt behind the mound. It was his job to bunt, but he missed on his first two attempts.
Harris squared to bunt again and Tomlin, a left-hander, unleashed a pitch that headed for Harris' chest.
Harris tried to fall out of the way, but the ball brushed his right arm and then hit his right hand before plopping into catcher Don Slaught's mitt.
Harris crumpled. Rapuano, ruling a foul ball, called strike three.
And here came Lasorda, driven by a frightening memory.
"I'll never forget when Bill Russell was hit by a pitch (in 1980) that broke his finger, but he was called out because the umpire never even looked at the finger!" Lasorda said. "I wasn't going to let that happen again."
Lasorda reached Harris, who was writhing on the ground in pain, and screamed at Rapuano, "Look at his hand! Look at his hand!"
The umpire looked, saw a bruise, and gave Harris first base.
That brought a similar charge from the dugout by Pirate Manager Jim Leyland. Except that Leyland later retreated to the clubhouse when he was ejected after a fierce argument.
Moments later, second baseman Curtis Wilkerson was also ejected for something he said.
The Dodgers, meanwhile, remained on the field until they had won. After Mike Scioscia's bunt forced Javier at third, Griffin poked Tomlin's next pitch into left field, scoring Harris with the eventual winning run. Jay Howell needed eight pitches in a 1-2-3 ninth inning to save the victory for Jim Gott (1-1).
"The first thing the umpire ruled was a foul tip, until he saw the man's injury, and then he went with that and gave him first base," said Bruce Froemming, the first-base umpire and crew chief. "You can overrule your call in that instance by going with the player's condition."
The Pirates said that Harris' condition was fine, and his acting even better.
"I threw a curveball that couldn't have been going more than 70 m.p.h.," Tomlin said. "He deserves an Academy Award."
Added shortstop Jay Bell: "There is no way he should have been rolling around the dirt like that, even if the ball did hit him. I was hit by a 92-m.p.h. pitch from Dwight Gooden and I was able to just shake it off."
The acting charges would have made little sense to Harris, who iced his hand after the game and will probably have X-rays today.
"Man, I didn't know if I was out or whatever, but at that point, I didn't care," Harris said. "It hurt so bad. . . . I was going to leave the field without argument. I've been hit before like that, and it's never been called."
Lasorda said he has won similar arguments often. It helps that Russell, who underwent three operations on his finger and cannot bend it, is sitting next to him in the dugout as a coach.
"It is better that the umpire got the call right than for him to have to live with it like the umpire has to live with Russell's injury," Lasorda said.
The Dodgers can certainly live with the victory, which gave them six victories in nine games on this just-completed trip. The Dodgers were particularly pleased because they got this one fewer than 24 hours after a difficult 2-1 loss to Pittsburgh in the season's first meeting of the two teams.
"This is what we used to do in Oakland," said Javier, who doubled his total of runs batted in with his fly ball into the right-field corner in the sixth inning. "We would lose a tough game, but we would always come back the next day and win.
"We never had a lot of losing streaks with Oakland, which is the sign of a good veteran team."
The Dodgers have not lost more than three consecutive games this season, and have not lost a series since May 1 in Montreal.