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It's A Balk-Off at Dodger Stadium!

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A memorable balk-off ending to the Dodgers’ Memorial Day game against the Arizona Diamondbacks had the Dodgers winning 5-4 in the bottom of the ninth.

“We lucked out,” manager Joe Torre said. “We screwed up on the bases and get a stay of execution so to speak.”

It all started with James Loney leading off the bottom of the ninth with a walk off of Esmerling Vasquez who came in relief of starter Rodrigo Lopez. After Casey Blake’s single sent him to second, everything looked good for the Dodgers: runners on first and second with no outs. One well-placed single would end the 4-4 stalemate. But during Russell Martin’s at-bat, Loney saw something with Vasquez and decided to break it for third.

The problem: Loney hesitated. He got caught in a rundown. As Loney was tagged out, Blake went to second base.

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“I don’t know what he was thinking,” Torre said. “You’ll have to ask him.”

So we did.

“That’s got to be the dumbest play I’ve ever done,” Loney said. “If I kept going I probably would have gotten [to third base]. But even in that situation, why risk it? I just reacted in a bad way.”

Martin grounded to second base sending Blake to third.

Now with two outs Blake started faking out Vasquez. Normally this sort of thing doesn’t work.

“Oh yeah,” Blake said when asked if he deliberately tried to cause a balk. “I took a couple of hard steps just to see if I could startle him a little bit. Most of the time it doesn’t work, but sometimes it does.”

But it did. With Blake, third-base coach Larry Bowa and the entire Dodger dugout yelling to the ump to call the balk, the Dodgers won the game on the balk, their first walk-off balk since 1969 and the first Major League balk-off since September 9, 2008 when the Atlanta Braves defeated the Colorado Rockies 5-4 in the tenth inning.

“I didn’t know if anyone else saw it,” Blake said. “But Bowa and I saw it. Everyone in the dugout saw it too. I was pretty sure I saw his front leg move.”

“That was big after we messed up with first and second with no outs,” Bowa said. “It was nice to win the game. We almost ran ourselves out of the inning. To win with two outs, that was good.”

Let’s just attribute this to the early 6:10 pm start. Nothing seemed as it should all game long.

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Chad Billingsley’s first two innings for example. In the first inning, Kelly Johnson lined the first pitch from Billingsley to right field for a double, and Justin Upton homered for the quick 2-0 lead. Chris Young and Chris Snyder hit solo homers in the second inning to account for all the DBacks’ runs. Everyone else in those two innings struck out swinging.

“The first two innings, I felt good,” Billingsley said. “They got some fastballs, they got it up in the air and it left the ballpark. You can’t do anything about it. You still have to go out there and pitch your game.”

But as the seven o’clock hour wore on, things got back to normal. Billingsley calmed down after Snyder’s homer and gave up only two singles - one by Adam LaRoche in the fourth and one by Johnson in the eighth - while striking out seven and striking out no one. His 11 strikeouts were the most he’s made since June 30, 2009 against Colorado when he also struck out 11 and is two shy of his career-high 13 he made on July 13, 2008 against the Florida Marlins at home. Also his eight innings of work was his most since July 5, 2009 in San Diego.

“After those first two innings, he was nails,” Torre said of Billingsley. “He was great. Real good fastball, great location.”

The Dodgers got a run back in the bottom of the second inning when Manny Ramirez led off with a solo homer to cut the deficit to 4-1. The Dodgers got another run in the third when Blake DeWitt who led off with a walk scored on Matt Kemp’s single for a 4-2 deficit.

But it was with DBacks’ second baseman Kelly Johnson’s gifts in the bottom of the eighth that gave the Dodgers the opportunity to balk their ass off.

With Kemp on second and Rafael Furcal on third with two outs Andre Ethier, in his first game since May 14, hit a grounder sharply to Johnson. While it looked like it would complete Ethier’s 0-for-4 day, Johnson bobbled the ball allowing Ethier to reach first and Furcal to score. Error #1. Johnson made things worse for the DBacks by throwing the ball away while trying to get it to first baseman Adam LaRoche which allowed Kemp to score and tie the game. Error #2.

The Dodgers finished the month of May with a 20-8 record, second best in LA Dodger history to the 1962 mark of 21-7. They also improved to 16-5 in the NL West with the best divisional record in baseball.