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Hollandsworth Is a Leadoff Hit

August 11, 1996|STEVE SPRINGER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

CINCINNATI — This is where it all began for Todd Hollandsworth, who was born in nearby Dayton 23 years ago.

And this is where it has begun again for the Dodger outfielder, whose career has been reborn at Riverfront Stadium as a leadoff batter.

Manager Bill Russell, desperate to find someone to fill the void left by the loss of Brett Butler, moved Hollandsworth, a rookie, up from the sixth slot to the top spot in the batting order for the start of a four-game series against the Cincinnati Reds.

Russell's only concern was that Hollandsworth not lose his aggressiveness at the plate in his new role.

Not to worry.

The left-handed batter had three hits Saturday, including a two-run homer, in a 7-5 Dodger victory in front of 33,830.

That gave Hollandsworth five hits in his 10 at-bats in two games as the leadoff batter. And four of those hits have been for extra bases--two homers and two doubles.

"It's kind of given me some life," said Hollandsworth, whose average has risen to .295. He is the seventh player the Dodgers have tried in the leadoff spot this season.

It also has helped give some life to a Dodger offense too often stuck in neutral.

Hollandsworth's sixth-inning homer, which landed in the second deck in right field, avoided what could have been a crushing defeat for a Dodger club that, at 60-56, is trying to stay afloat in the National League West, where it trails the San Diego Padres and Colorado Rockies.

When Hollandsworth hit his homer, it didn't seem like much more than a way to pad out his numbers and perhaps get a few more people to consider his name when running over the list of rookie-of-the-year candidates.

After all, that home run gave the Dodgers a comfortable 7-0 lead behind starter Hideo Nomo, who had not given up a hit through five innings.

Taking advantage of a first-inning error by Cincinnati third baseman Lenny Harris, the Dodgers had scored four unearned runs, Eric Karros and Delino DeShields getting RBI singles and Greg Gagne driving in the other two runs with a bases-loaded single.

Mike Piazza knocked in Hollandsworth with a sacrifice fly to make it 5-0 in the second.

But all was not well with Nomo, despite his flirtation with a no-hitter. The Dodger right-hander, who had walked 56 batters in 156 2/3 innings coming into the game, could not seem to find the plate with any consistency Saturday, walking five batters through the first five innings.

His troubles worsened in the sixth. He walked Harris to lead off the inning, then surrendered his first hit, a double, to Hal Morris. Then came another walk, Nomo's seventh, putting Barry Larkin on to load the bases.

Kevin Mitchell brought Cincinnati's first run home with a sacrifice fly, and Eric Davis followed by hitting the ball into the seats in right-center field to cut the margin to 7-4. It was Davis' 20th home run.

When he gave up a two-out single to Bret Boone, Nomo was gone, but he still managed to get the victory, improving his record to 11-9.

Starter Dave Burba (6-11) took the loss for the Reds, who dropped back to .500 at 56-56.

Asked about his control problems, Nomo could not offer an explanation.

While his struggles ended when he came out, the Dodgers' did not.

Mitchell singled in the Reds' fifth run in the seventh inning and Cincinnati loaded the bases with Mark Guthrie facing Reggie Sanders. Sanders hit a line drive at Juan Castro at second to end the threat.

The Dodgers brought in closer Todd Worrell in the ninth, but, like Nomo, he had control problems.

With two out, he hit Larkin with a pitch and walked Mitchell and Davis. Sanders again came up with the bases full.

He worked Worrell to a 2-2 count, then took a called third strike.

"Nothing is easy," a relieved Russell said when the game had finally ended.

True enough for the Dodgers, but, if Hollandsworth can continue to fill his new role, it could get easier.

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