With a forecast for stormy weather, Dodgers manager Joe Torre scratched scheduled starter Chad Billingsley 17 minutes before the first pitch. What followed were 4 1/2 hours of frustration for Torre, his already overused pitching staff wasted along with numerous scoring opportunities and, ultimately, a chance for a season-opening series sweep.
"I thought I finished with the rain stuff in New York," said Torre. "When you look at it, we gave up two runs in nine innings. You can't ask for anything more than that. We had plenty of opportunities, but came away empty."
He also, three games into the season, came away with a depleted pitching staff. So after the game, the Dodgers purchased the contract of 34-year-old Chan Ho Park and designated infielder Angel Chavez for assignment.
The move signals another step in the comeback of Park, who debuted with the Dodgers in 1994 and was lights-out in the spring (2.41 ERA), but lost the fifth starter's job to Esteban Loaiza and his guaranteed contract. Park had been scheduled to start Thursday night's opener for Triple-A Las Vegas and now will give the Dodgers an innings-eating swingman.
"We made a decision to go with 11 pitchers," said Torre, "but a night like tonight will change your minds in a hurry."
Torre knew before this game started that he didn't have the services of 38-year-old closer Takashi Saito, who had pitched the previous two games, and only had "a piece" of Joe Beimel after similar use. Then 30 minutes before game time, the grounds crew passed along a bad weather report. Torre said pitching coach Rick Honeycutt came up with the idea of a sub starter "and I thought it was a good one."
The idea was to have Hong-Chih Kuo, in his first regular-season appearance since his fourth elbow operation, warm up fast and pitch until an anticipated rain delay. Torre said he personally notified Giants manager Bruce Bochy of the reason for the late change and Bochy thought it was such a good idea, he did the same thing with his scheduled starter, Tim Lincecum, tabbing Merkin Valdez instead.
Kuo gave the Dodgers three scoreless innings. Velez filled in by striking out four in two perfect innings for San Francisco.
Lincecum entered the game in the bottom of the fourth and Billingsley took over for rookie Ramon Troncoso in the top of the fifth. However, a mist that started in the third inning turned to a serious shower about the time the starters relieved.
Billingsley inherited a 1-0 lead on James Loney's fourth-inning RBI flare single after walks to Russell Martin and Jeff Kent. But Billingsley made it through only one-third of an inning, lost the lead on an error by left fielder Andre Ethier, and then crew chief Ed Montague delayed the game because of rain.
Play resumed after one hour and 14 minutes with Loaiza pitching for the Dodgers and Lincecum still on the mound for San Francisco. Winn's bases-loaded sacrifice fly in the sixth broke the tie. Scott Proctor gave Torre a perfect two innings and when the game ended, scheduled Friday night starter Hiroki Kuroda was warmed up and ready to pitch extra innings.
Instead, Torre said Kuroda will make his Friday night debut as scheduled and Billingsley will take his regular turn Monday night in Arizona.
"I was already getting loose when Honey told me," said Billingsley. "They said they didn't want to waste me for two innings. It was strange. They tried to save me. It ended up not working out that way."
Nothing worked for the Dodgers. The offense had six hits, half by rookie Blake DeWitt, and the Dodgers found interesting ways to strand nine. In the seventh inning, for example, they had a pair of doubles and a walk, had nobody thrown out on the bases and still didn't score. The game ended on a double play, Rafael Furcal taking a called third strike while pinch-hitter Juan Pierre was thrown out trying to steal second base after reaching on a fielder's choice.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.