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The New Walk of Fame

Times Staff Writer

The Dodgers reopened their show Thursday night after tinkering with the lineup, hoping for more production and better reviews.

A longtime cast member helped them get off to a good start, as Hideo Nomo powered the Dodgers to a 6-3 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals at Dodger Stadium.

The crowd of 40,331 warmly greeted outfielders Rickey Henderson and Jeromy Burnitz -- brought in at the All-Star break to help improve an ineffective offense -- in their Dodger debuts, but Nomo was the catalyst.

Nomo (10-8), who worked six solid innings in stifling humidity, had a career-high three runs batted in to provide a spark that was often lacking in a frustrating first half for the Dodger batting order.

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He hit a two-run home run in the third against Cardinal starter Garrett Stephenson (4-10), and added a run-scoring double in a two-run fourth as the Dodgers took command, 4-1, in the teams’ first game after the break. The Dodgers started anew on a positive note, and the consistent Nomo had provided Manager Jim Tracy with another reason to praise him.

“I don’t have words to describe this guy anymore,” Tracy said. “The type of performance we saw tonight was very indicative of what we saw for a majority of the second half of the season a year ago.

“And Hideo would have gone further, but with the baserunning that he did and the humidity.... There was no reason to send him back out there in that humidity, with all the running around that he did, and allow himself to get back into trouble.”

With the Dodgers in a 5-15 freefall at the All-Star break, Tracy didn’t take any chances in the ninth with a run in and Mike Matheny on first and two out, pulling setup man Paul Shuey and summoning closer Eric Gagne.

Fresh off giving up the winning homer in the All-Star game, Gagne got J.D. Drew to pop up to shortstop Cesar Izturis for the final out. Gagne earned his 32nd save and 40th consecutive spanning two seasons.

The Dodgers (50-44) took the opener of a four-game series and won their third game in as many meetings against the Cardinals (49-46). The third-place Dodgers remained 7 1/2 games behind the San Francisco Giants in the National League West.

Although tired and drenched from running the bases, Nomo had another strong start in winning for the first time since June 25. And what about that power?

“I feel very lucky and surprised,” Nomo said through an interpreter. “The home run was the third of my career, and the double gave me some RBIs. Very lucky.”

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Nomo gave up two hits and an unearned run on third baseman Adrian Beltre’s 12th error in the fourth inning, but Beltre atoned for the mistake.

He also contributed to a good start for the Dodgers, continuing his pattern of heating up after plays resumes in July.

Beltre -- whose career batting average is 28 points higher after the break -- blasted a one-out, solo homer to straightaway center in the fourth, and his two-out, two-RBI single in the fifth put the game out of reach, 6-1.

Henderson and Burnitz didn’t have smashing openers (they were one for eight combined), but much wasn’t required of them with Nomo and Beltre doing so much.

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“I didn’t really have to do nothing -- Nomo did it all,” said Burnitz, acquired Monday from the New York Mets for three minor leaguers.

“That’s about as good as it gets. No [earned] runs and knocking in three. That’s a pretty solid performance.”

Henderson received an ovation after his one-out single in the third, and the future Hall of Famer, considered a liability on defense, easily handled three chances in left and was removed in a double-switch in the eighth.

Burnitz had a quiet night. He was hitless in four at-bats and had no chances in center and left.

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“Nomo pitched an outstanding game,” said Henderson, the active hits leader with 3,041. “It’s just good to be back to get out there and playing.”


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