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Nomo Does It With Relish

Times Staff Writer

Let’s see, winning the nightly sausage race in old County Stadium as a member of the Detroit Tigers in 2000 or flirting with a no-hitter as a member of the Dodgers in 2003: Which was the bigger Milwaukee thrill for Hideo Nomo?

“Pretty close, I would say they were comparable,” the normally stoic Nomo said with a chuckle after throwing a two-hit shutout to lead the Dodgers to a 6-0 win over the Brewers before 20,615 in Miller Park on Saturday night, extending the Dodger winning streak to nine games. “I have a good memory of [the sausage race].”

For the record, Nomo ran as the No. 2 Polish Sausage in 2000, and he admits that being a fan favorite as a Milwaukee pitcher in 1999 might have had something to do with the outcome of the race.

Was it fixed? “I think so,” Nomo said.

The way Nomo was locating his split-fingered fastball Saturday night, the Brewers had just as good a chance against Nomo as the Bratwurst, the Hot Dog and the Italian Sausage did against Nomo three years ago.

Nomo blanked the Brewers over the first six innings and got the first out in the seventh before John Vander Wal fisted a bloop single to shallow left-center field on Nomo’s 87th pitch, breaking up his bid for a third no-hitter.

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Wes Helms followed with a dunker to center, moving Vander Wal to third, but Nomo struck out Eddie Perez and got Royce Clayton to ground out to end the inning. Nomo then retired the final six batters for his ninth career shutout and second of the season, following his season-opening, 8-0 victory over Arizona.

“That was the best split-fingered pitch he’s had all year,” Dodger catcher Paul Lo Duca said. “He was throwing it outside to right-handers and inside to left-handers. He was just dominant.”

Nomo, who got all the support he needed when first baseman Fred McGriff smashed a fifth-inning grand slam off Milwaukee starter Matt Kinney, wasn’t so sure. Asked if he thought he had no-hit stuff, Nomo said, “No, it felt the same as usual.”

Nomo’s fastball didn’t seem especially crisp -- it rarely hit 90 mph -- and he had some control problems, walking four and striking out eight in a 120-pitch effort.

At least one teammate was surprised Nomo was on the verge of history.

“I looked up after that first hit and said, ‘Holy cow, this guy’s throwing a no-hitter?’ I didn’t even know it,” said outfielder Brian Jordan, who hit a two-run single in the ninth. “I knew he was throwing a good game, but I didn’t know it was that good. It looked just like normal Nomo to me.”

Normal Nomo has been superb this season. He improved to 6-4 and lowered his earned-run average to 2.70.

“When you watch this guy pitch with command from the opening bell -- it’s not that you think he’s going to throw a no-hitter, but you get a strong feeling it’s going to be a very strong performance,” Manager Jim Tracy said. “You know if you do anything for him offensively, you’re going to have a good chance of winning the game.”

Nomo also had two hits, including a single to open the fifth. Alex Cora then singled, Lo Duca struck out, and Shawn Green was hit by a pitch to load the bases.

McGriff sat on a first-pitch fastball and crushed it, lining it into the second deck in right field for his seventh homer of the season, 485th homer of his career and his ninth grand slam.

San Francisco’s victory over Colorado prevented the Dodgers from slicing into the Giants’ 1 1/2-game lead in the National League West, but that hardly put a damper on the evening for Nomo and the Dodgers, who matched the sixth-longest winning streak in Los Angeles franchise history.

“He kept us so off-balance all night -- he was just on tonight,” Milwaukee Manager Ned Yost said of Nomo. “You tip your hat to him. That’s probably the best-pitched game we’ve had against us all year.”

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Hot, Hot, Hot

*--* Longest win streaks since the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles: NO YEAR DATES 13 1962 May 21-June 1 13 1965 Sept. 16-30 12 1976 April 24-May 7 11 1993 May 17-29 10 1980 April 20-30 9 1974 May 8-15 9 2001 June 26-July 4 9 2003 May 14-24

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