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NoooooooMo

Baseball: He throws first no-hitter at Denver, first by a Japanese pitcher in 9-0 victory over Rockies that gives L.A. a 1 1/2-game lead.

September 18, 1996|BOB NIGHTENGALE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

DENVER — Hideo Nomo walked off the mound in disbelief Tuesday night, not even sure he could believe it himself.

He looked around, watched catcher Mike Piazza leap into his arms, and it finally sunk in.

Nomo had just thrown a no-hitter against the Colorado Rockies in the Dodgers' 9-0 victory in front of 48,048 stunned fans at Coors Field.

"Throwing a no-hitter at this place," Piazza said, "he should be canonized on the spot."

It will go down as the 20th no-hitter in Dodger history, but simply, it will be remembered as one of the greatest pitching performances in the history of the Dodgers.

Nomo becomes the seventh pitcher in Los Angeles history to pitch a no-hitter, and the first since Ramon Martinez's no-hitter July 14, 1995 against the Florida Marlins.

It was the third no-hitter pitched in the major leagues this season, joining Al Leiter of the Florida Marlins and Dwight Gooden of the New York Mets. The Rockies, who were no-hit by Leiter on May 11 at Joe Robbie Stadium, now have the dubious distinction of becoming the first team since the 1977 Angels to be no-hit twice in the same season.

Ironically, Rocky Manager Don Baylor played on that Angels' team.

Nomo was phenomenal, baffling a lineup that has terrorized the National League at Coors Field. The Rockies, who have scored a major league-record 632 runs at home this season, looked absolutely clueless.

The Rockies managed to hit seven balls out of the infield, with Nomo striking out seven and walking four in his 110-pitch performance.

This is the place that has haunted Nomo (16-10) since signing with the Dodgers last year. Twice he had pitched at Coors Field. Twice he had been battered, failing to last five innings with a 11.18 earned-run average, yielding 18 hits and six walks in 9 2/3 innings.

This night, he pretended as if he were pitching in Los Angeles. After all, he is 3-0 against the Rockies with a 1.77 ERA in four starts against the Rockies at Dodger Stadium.

The crowd stood when Nomo walked to the mound in the ninth inning. Nomo didn't look the least bit nervous, let alone rattled.

Nomo never succumbed a year ago to the staggering pressure of carrying the hopes and dreams of an entire country.

So what's the burden of a little pennant race?

"To me, he's like Fernando [Valenzuela]," Dodger Manager Bill Russell said before the game. "Those guys say, 'Give me the ball.' He's a big game guy. Nothing seems to bother him.

"He's had to overcome the language and cultural barriers, and here is with 15 wins. That's a special person to do what he'd doing.

"You hear him. All he wants is to be one of the guys. He just wants to go out and do the job.

"You have to believe he's stronger now than he was at this time last year."

Nomo spent most of the afternoon not even knowing whether he would even pitch. He sat alone in front of his locker while the game was delayed two hours by rain.

When the game finally started, Nomo realized this hardly was the usual Coors Field conditions. The temperature was 46 degrees. The humidity was 97%. And the ball was not carrying.

Eric Young led off the Rockies' first when he belted a fastball to right field. Nomo thought it might be out. Much to his surprise, it didn't even reach the warning track. Nomo walked Quinton McCracken on five pitches, and then watched him steal second. This time, Ellis Burks hit a fly ball to deep right field, but again, it didn't go out.

Nomo ended the first by striking out Dante Bichette, and now his confidence was soaring.

Greg Gagne robbed Andres Galarraga of a single in the fourth. With Burks on first base, Galarraga hit a sharp grounder toward the second-base bag. Gagne dived, snared the ball, and flipped the ball to second baseman Delino DeShields for the force.

In the seventh, Galarraga hit a line drive toward the right-field corner. Mondesi caught the ball, sliding to his knees.

Nomo has been remarkably consistent this season, pitching into the seventh inning in six consecutive starts, and 12 of his last 13 starts since he last stepped onto the mound at Coors Field on June 30. In that game, he yielded nine hits and nine runs (five earned) in five innings in the Dodgers' 16-15 loss.

Yet, he has phenomenal of late, going 4-0 with a 1.36 ERA in his last five starts.

Nomo has been as responsible as anyone for the Dodgers' surge, winning 20 of their last 25 games and eight consecutive series. Never, the Dodgers say, have they ever played on a team that has played so well for so long.

Yet, the San Diego Padres continue to stay in the haunt. The Padres fell 1 1/2 games behind the Dodgers, the first time since Sept. 7 that the two teams were separated by more than half a game.

"This is about as exciting as it can get," Dodger first baseman Eric Karros said. "No one's giving in. Both teams are just playing incredible baseball right now."

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

THE NL WEST

Stretch Drive

TUESDAY'S RESULTS

Dodgers 9, Colorado 0

San Francisco 9, San Diego 7

This Time, Padres Lose The Magic

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