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One-Pitch KO Leaves Braves Feeling Chipper : Dodgers: Jones homers on Seanez’s first delivery in ninth to give Alanta 4-1 victory. Nomo strikes out 10, doesn’t figure in decision.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Brave third baseman Chipper Jones watched the ball disappear over the right-field fence in the ninth inning Wednesday night, pumped his fist, and was overcome by an unexpected emotion.

He had hit a three-run, two-out, game-winning home run, giving the Braves a 4-1 victory over the Dodgers at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, but felt the game should have played out differently.

“It was almost like I was wishing that [Hideo] Nomo and John [Smoltz] could have thrown 18 innings apiece,” Jones said. “It was that fun. A pitcher as unique as Nomo doesn’t come along every day.

“I remember sitting back on the bench in the seventh and eighth innings, and saying, ‘Wow, this is a masterpiece.’

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“Games like that, you don’t want to see end.”

Jones’ home run ended an evening in which Nomo and Smoltz engaged in one of the finest pitchers’ duels of the season:

Nomo: seven innings, two hits, one run, five walks, 10 strikeouts.

Smoltz: eight innings, nine hits, one run, three walks, 12 strikeouts.

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“It would have been very easy to come in here tonight and not know who was pitching for the Braves,” said Smoltz, 7-4 with a 2.84 earned-run average. “I think a lot of people came out tonight just to see how Nomo would pitch.

“It wasn’t so much that I was trying to have more strikeouts than him, or outpitch him, but I wanted to let people know there was another pitcher in this game.

“It was just a fun game to pitch in. Shoot, it would have been a great game just to sit back and watch. At this point in the year, you never think there can be games like this. It was almost like a playoff atmosphere.”

It was only the second time since Nomo’s major league debut that the opposing pitcher struck out more batters than Nomo. But then again, Nomo considered this an average performance.

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Try telling that to the Braves, who managed only a hit-and-run single by Jeff Blauser in the first inning and a flare by Javier Lopez in the fourth. The powerful middle of the Braves’ lineup--Jones, Fred McGriff, David Justice and Ryan Klesko--struck out six times and hit only two balls out of the infield in 14 at-bats.

“The guy was absolutely phenomenal,” Jones said. “He’s worth all of the hype and press that he’s getting.

“I know a lot of people are talking about me as the rookie of the year, but after what he’s done the last month, even I’d consider Nomo the rookie of the year.”

Said Smoltz: “Guys were coming back to the bench telling each other that if you let him, he’ll walk you nine out of 10 times. But they still couldn’t lay off his pitches. He’s that good.”

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Nomo lowered his earned-run average to a season-low 1.99, but was irritated about his five walks, particularly the two in the first inning that cost him a run when Marquis Grissom scored on a wild pitch.

“I’ve got to be better,” said Nomo, who scored the Dodger run on a single by Mike Piazza in the third. “Tonight my control was pretty bad.”

It happened to be the only run the Braves scored until Nomo was safely out of the way.

“We breathed a sigh of relief when he left,” Jones said. “It pumped us all up.”

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Grissom started the attack with a two-out single in the ninth off reliever Pedro Astacio. Blauser followed with another single. And when Astacio fell behind, 2-and-0 to Jones, he was yanked. Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda called upon right-handed reliever Rudy Seanez instead of left-hander Joey Eischen, although Jones has 11 of his 12 homers and 38 of his 45 runs batted in against right-handers.

“David Justice called me over and said, ‘Don’t try to do too much with it,’ ” Jones said. “ ‘Don’t try to put it in the seats or anything stupid like that.’

“Well, I saw that fastball coming [on Seanez’s first pitch], put on an aggressive swing, and it went out of the park. It was one of those games you dream about as a kid, you know, bases loaded . . . full-count . . . bottom of the ninth.

“Well, maybe the bases weren’t quite juiced, and it wasn’t a 3-2 count, but I’ll take it.

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“I grew up the biggest Dodger fan you can imagine, and a big Tommy [Lasorda] fan, so this was special.”

Lasorda, who has watched his team lose six of its last eight games, falling to 33-32, hardly was in the mood to compliment anyone. He was angry with a few of the fans among the crowd of 36,922 who threw objects into the Dodger dugout in the ninth inning. He was upset with his team’s failure to hit in the clutch, going one for seven with runners in scoring position. He was annoyed that Brave closer Mark Wohlers threw 101 m.p.h. by one radar gun’s estimation in the ninth inning.

Then again, it could have been worse.

Nomo could have signed with the Braves, but instead canceled his trip and became a Dodger. Nomo contends the Braves lost interest in him and simply didn’t project him as a dominant pitcher.

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John Schuerholz, executive vice president of the Braves, called that thinking absurd. Atlanta wanted Nomo all along, he said, but the Dodgers never gave them a chance.

“Can you imagine what our rotation would have looked like?” Schuerholz said.

Said Lasorda: “Yeah, I guess it could have been worse.”


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