It doesn’t normally work this way. Runners don’t usually take off from first and second base while the pitcher is standing idly on the mound, ball in hand.
But by the time Colorado starter Jason Hirsh finally realized the strange goings-on behind him in the third inning Wednesday night at Dodger Stadium, Juan Pierre and Russell Martin were already well on the way to executing a bizarre double steal.
And soon the Dodgers were en route to an invigorating 3-0 victory over the Rockies that gave them a second consecutive series triumph.
Dodgers starter Brad Penny continued his career-long mastery of Colorado, pitching 6 1/3 scoreless innings and combining with two relievers on a two-hitter, but it was the strange sequence in the third inning that propelled the Dodgers to their sixth victory in seven games.
“It’s not something you see every day pulled off exactly like that,” Dodgers Manager Grady Little said.
The rally started with two out when Pierre lofted a bloop single to left field and Martin followed with a single to right. Then, before Hirsh delivered his first pitch to Nomar Garciaparra, Pierre and Martin became a blur on the basepaths behind him.
As Pierre scooted toward third, catcher Chris Iannetta finally alerted Hirsh by motioning toward the base. But Pierre and Martin arrived safely at their intended destinations without so much as a throw.
“I did a little bit of homework before the game,” Pierre said. “He held the ball longer than I thought he was going to. He was locked in [with his pitch] when I was halfway there.”
Even though Pierre said he had told Martin to “pay attention when you’re behind me,” he didn’t expect the catcher to follow his lead and was pleasantly surprised when he saw Martin sliding into second base.
Garciaparra then hit Hirsh’s next pitch into left field for a two-run single. Hirsh compounded the mess with a balk that moved Garciaparra into scoring position, and Jeff Kent brought him home from second base with a single to left.
The whirlwind sequence resulted in a disappointing homecoming for Hirsh (1-1), a Burbank resident who attended La Canada St. Francis High and Cal Lutheran.
“Your mound presence has to be a little better,” Colorado Manager Clint Hurdle said. “Once he stepped off [the rubber], everything went kind of quick on him.... Three runs in the blink of an eye.”
Penny (2-0) retired 11 of the final 12 batters he faced while improving to 6-0 against Colorado dating to last season and 11-2 lifetime with a 2.59 earned-run average.
“It’s just luck,” said Penny, who gave up two hits and four walks while striking out three. “You go out there and the ball falls differently against that team. They’re hitting balls right at people.”
Penny was visibly irritated after hitting Iannetta with a fastball with one out in the seventh, but reliever Jonathan Broxton set down the next two batters. Closer Takashi Saito then pitched a scoreless ninth, striking out two batters, for his fifth save in as many opportunities.
It didn’t appear as if Penny was headed for a lengthy outing in the first inning, when he walked three consecutive batters with one out. But he recovered swiftly, striking out Matt Holliday on three pitches and then getting Brad Hawpe to ground into an inning-ending fielder’s choice.
Penny made a fine defensive play in the second, diving with his glove outstretched to catch a bunt attempt by Willy Taveras.