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Dodgers Can’t Get to Portugal

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Manager Bill Russell has drastically altered the Dodger batting order, tried numerous lineups and given opportunities to those who are struggling.

Russell is doing all he can--but his players aren’t.

Their offensive malaise continued Thursday night in a 4-0 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies before 30,867 at Dodger Stadium.

The Dodgers had only two hits in losing for the third time in the four-game series against the Phillies, and dropped two games under .500 at 19-21.

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Philadelphia right-hander Mark Portugal--making only his fifth start since 1996--had a perfect game through five innings and gave up only two hits in eight innings.

“What can I say?” Russell said after the Dodgers wasted a strong start by Hideo Nomo. “This team is supposed to play better than that against a team like Philadelphia.

“The people who are supposed to be doing it are not doing it, and it’s as simple as that. We’ve seen this too many times, and it’s very frustrating.”

Portugal (2-0) was making only his second start of the season after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee April 7. And he made only three starts for the Phillies last season after tearing muscles in his throwing elbow.

He appeared to be in top shape against the Dodgers.

Relying heavily on his change-up, Portugal struck out four and walked one. Thomas Howard’s leadoff double in the sixth and Todd Hollandsworth’s infield single in the eighth were the only hits against him.

Portugal was especially efficient, throwing only 88 pitches, 59 for strikes, before Mark Leiter pitched the ninth.

“I was amazed at the control I had,” Portugal said. “The Dodgers have a very potent lineup, and you can’t take anyone for granted, so it feels good to come in and get a big win here.”

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Nomo rebounded from a difficult outing in his previous start, pitching eight strong innings. He gave up six hits and two earned runs, but still dropped to 2-5 and lost for the second time in three starts.

“He deserved a better fate than that tonight,” Russell said. “When a pitcher only gives up two runs, this team is supposed to give him a win.”

Nomo began the game tied for seventh in the National League with 47 strikeouts, and he struck out nine with three walks. But two of those walks helped the Phillies score their first run in the sixth.

Matt Luke pinch-hit for Nomo in the eighth after he had thrown 136 pitches, 85 for strikes. With two out and Hollandsworth at first, Luke popped out to shallow center.

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Nomo lasted only 2 2/3 innings Saturday in his previous start, a 7-4 loss to the Florida Marlins at Pro Player Stadium.

He was forced to leave that game because he broke the acrylic nail he wears on the middle finger of his throwing hand. He began wearing an acrylic nail after splitting his nail during a game in 1995.

The problem with his nail helped explain Nomo’s control problems against the Marlins. He gave up five hits and walked three, and he was charged with four runs.

That marked Nomo’s first poor performance in four starts. His control had been outstanding in his previous three starts, in which he pitched two complete games and at least seven innings in each.

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But Nomo returned to form Thursday after a manicurist fitted him with a new acrylic nail.

He retired the side in order in the first, second, fourth and fifth innings.

But he had thrown 101 pitches through the first five. It showed in the sixth and seventh.

With one out in the sixth, Doug Glanville and Gregg Jefferies singled. Scott Rolen walked on a full count to load the bases, and Kevin Jordan struck out swinging.

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But Bob Abreu walked on four pitches to force home Glanville with the game’s first run. Mark Lewis lined out to right to end the inning, but the Dodgers knew they were in trouble with the way Portugal was throwing.

Jefferies provided an insurance run for Portugal in the eighth. On a 1-and-0 count, he hit a leadoff home run--his second homer--into the empty seats in the right-center pavilion.


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