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Dodger Starters Seemingly Can’t Lift a Finger

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Hideo Nomo removed himself in the third inning Saturday night against the Florida Marlins because of a sore finger.

With the way the Dodgers have pitched recently, it would have been surprising had Nomo not left early.

The right-hander continued a troubling trend for the Dodgers in their 7-4 loss, which dropped them under .500 at 17-18.

He became the fourth starting pitcher in five games to fail to pitch five innings, and the loss, the Dodgers’ fifth in six games, assured them of their third losing trip in as many ventures away from home. They are 4-6 on the 11-game trip that ends today.

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And a Marlin rookie starter embarrassed the Dodgers for the second straight night. Right-hander Andy Larkin--who began the game with a 7.00 earned-run average--pitched 8 1/3 strong innings.

When he was removed, Larkin received a standing ovation from a Pro Player Stadium crowd of 32,115. With runners at first and second, Wilton Guerrero flied out to center to end the game against reliever Jay Powell.

The Dodgers had only six hits, and Nomo had some explaining to do.

“I felt something underneath my nail,” Nomo said through an interpreter. "[The nail] didn’t split, but it was hurting. It hurt too much. . . . I couldn’t throw anymore.”

With two out and the Dodgers trailing, 3-1, Nomo signaled for a timeout after going to a 3-and-0 count against Gregg Zaun. He removed himself because he was experiencing pain under his acrylic nail on the middle finger of his throwing hand.

Nomo (2-4), who was staked to a 1-0 first-inning lead Saturday, has worn an acrylic nail since splitting a nail during a game in 1995. The finger pain made it difficult for Nomo to grip the ball, which could help explain his control problems.

He walked three while throwing 72 pitches, 37 of which were strikes, in only 2 2/3 innings. He gave up five hits and was ultimately charged with four runs when reliever Jim Bruske gave up an RBI double to Zaun.

“The pain started from the second inning,” Nomo said. “I think it had something to do with the pressure of the ball on my finger, and with the pressure on my fake nail.”

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The cause of the pain won’t be determined until the acrylic nail is removed. The cause of the Dodgers’ pain is already well known.

“We need to get more innings from our starters, and they just haven’t given them to us on this trip,” Manager Bill Russell said. “We’d like to give our bullpen a rest, but we can’t do that until our starters can give us six or seven innings out there.”

Only staff ace Ramon Martinez, who defeated the Marlins in the series opener Thursday, has pitched more than 4 2/3 innings in the previous five games. The starters are 1-4 with an 8.24 ERA during that span.

But the Dodger hitters haven’t done much either. They had three of their six hits in the ninth, including a two-out, two-run single by Matt Luke, who was pinch-hitting for reliever Antonio Osuna.

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Rookie left-hander Jesus Sanchez threw 147 pitches and had a career-high 10 strikeouts Friday in the Marlins’ 12-6 victory. Larkin (2-2) gave up five hits and was charged with four runs--three earned. He threw 131 pitches, 88 strikes, and had a career-high six strikeouts with two walks.

He helped the Marlins win consecutive games for only the third time this season.

“We’re just going through a bad time against teams we’re supposed to beat,” Russell said. “Not to take anything away from this team, because they have some talent here, but we’re supposed to come in here and play better when we’re going against the young pitchers we’re facing.”

His players agree.

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“It’s very frustrating for us,” third baseman Todd Zeile said. “We’re not hitting, our starters are struggling and our bullpen is fatigued.

“We’re playing a lot of lineups to try to find the right mix, but we’re not getting it done. I don’t think anyone on this team thinks we’re an under-.500 team, but that’s the way we’re playing.”

NEXT SERIES FOR DODGERS

WHO: Philadelphia Phillies

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WHERE: Dodger Stadium

WHEN: Monday, 7 p.m., Tuesday, 7 p.m., Wednesday, 7:30 p.m., Thursday, 7 p.m.


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