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BASEBALL EXTRA

Dodger Bats Out of Practice but Do the Job Just as Well

Baseball: In a 14-hit attack, even Nomo gets a double in 5-2 victory.

June 08, 1997|MIKE PENNER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

So, the Dodgers skipped batting practice, did they?

Buy the company line if you like, but what does one call that hourlong workout engaged by Danny Jackson and the Dodger hitters shortly after the clock struck 7 Saturday night?

With St. Louis' Danny Jackson doing the lobbing, the Dodgers amassed nine hits--including a home run by Mike Piazza--and four runs before Jackson could deliver his 61st pitch, easing the slumping Dodgers to a 5-2 victory over the Cardinals in front of 43,174 at Dodger Stadium.

Hideo Nomo (6-5) benefited from the sudden awakening, striking out 10 en route to a complete-game six-hitter, and even joined in on the hit-fest with a ground-rule double to lead off the third inning.

Four runs in three innings, 14 hits for the game--an embarrassment of riches for a Dodger offense so stricken by inertia that Manager Bill Russell, desperate to turn around a club that had lost eight of its previous 10, announced he was calling off Saturday batting practice in an attempt to shake things up.

Not surprisingly, Russell's move was roundly applauded by Dodger players, who were not required to suit up until 5:30 p.m.--90 minutes before the first pitch--which meant they could spend most of the day visualizing fat curveballs being ripped successfully into the gap.

Either that, or they could just slack off.

Brett Butler said he took his kids to Universal Studios. Although he reported getting "soaked" on the "Lost World" ride, Butler thought the day away from the batting cage was time well spent.

"It's more or less a way to change things up," Butler said. "It's a way to break up the routine, just like shaking up the lineup. It enables guys to relax. Some guys come in [without taking batting practice] and step it up."

Against Jackson (1-2), the Dodgers got started quickly. Roger Cedeno, batting .158 at game time, led off the bottom of the first inning with a double to right, his first of three hits for the night. Two outs later, he scored on a single by Piazza.

Nomo opened the bottom of the third with his double to right field, and Cedeno doubled again, giving the Dodgers 2-0 lead. Cedeno scored on a single by Raul Mondesi, who was thrown out attempting to stretch the hit into a double, and Piazza followed with a 419-foot home run to left, his 10th of the season.

Before the ninth Dodger out, a 4-0 Dodger lead.

Afterward, Russell proclaimed the no-batting-practice experiment a rousing success.

"That's how it works," Russell said. "We had 14 hits with no BP, so you do it again."

For the Dodgers, the departure from form was radical, even if the ploy was not.

"We've tried it before in the past," Russell said. "This is not the first time we tried this. I think last year or the year before, we won eight straight while not taking BP."

And, Russell emphasized, 14 hits and five runs are meaningless if the opposition scores six.

"Hitting or no hitting, Nomo shut down the hitting game of the Cardinals," Russell said. "That's the story of this game. You get pitching like that, you're going to win most games."

Bottom line: The Dodgers get to sleep in today. Their fate is now in their hands--no batting practice for as long as they continue to win.

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