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About Jon
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1) using profanity or any euphemisms for profanity
2) personally attacking other commenters
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4) arguing for the sake of arguing
5) discussing politics
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Opening Day Running Commentary
2003-03-31 14:40
by Jon Weisman
Note: The Dodger Thoughts blog has moved to the Los Angeles Times.

I'll sneak in some thoughts when I can...
First inning
Nice, huh? Guess what - Shawn Green hits Randy Johnson. Career OPS is .906. And how about Nomo only needing 11 pitches? That's the stuff.

I love it - we are playing ball!

Second inning
Adrian Beltre does not hit Randy - career OPS of .605. Of course, we're talking a small sample here - it's a difference of four hits in 36 or 37 at-bats between Beltre and Green.

Nomo follows his 11 with a 9.

Third inning
Cesar Izturis leads off with a double...what a hitter. Let's see if Nomo can get a bunt down this year - or will he just play it safe health-wise and concede the at-bat to Johnson.

Nope - K for Nomo. Only one by Johnson in his first run through the lineup. But Roberts and Lo Duca can't bring the run in. Johnson's thrown 38 pitches through three - no big deal for him. Still Dodgers 1, Diamondbacks 0 heading into the bottom of the third.

Nomo started with first-pitch balls to all three batters in the first. Now, with two out in the third, six out of eight batters have taken the first pitch. I wouldn't be surprised if there were a strategy to take pitches on Nomo, perhaps the wildest good pitcher in baseball (now that Johnson isn't wild anymore, and Ishii may not be that good).

Johnson, at the plate, takes a ball and a strike before grounding out. Three innings, 31 pitches for Nomo. That's as good as he can be - phenomenal for him. I doubt he had more than a handful of three-inning stretches like that last year.

Fourth inning
Okay, what's with all the caught stealing? Jordan in the first, and now Green in the fourth after a walk. Both appear to be straight steals, not busted hit-and-runs. Checking last year's stats, baserunners only stole 19 out of 34 bases against Johnson - 56 percent - so it's not like he's easy to run on. Chad Moeller, the Arizona catcher, has thrown out only 30 percent of baserunners in his career - not a great total, but not Todd Hundley territory either.

Running on Johnson is something to consider - you just have to weigh the difficulty of getting runners home against Johnson vs. the difficulty of getting them on in the first place. I might play it a little conservative, or at least try more hit-and-run.

Tony Womack returns the favor to the Dodgers in the bottom of the fourth - out trying to stretch a double into a triple. That helps Nomo get through the fourth with 12 pitches - 43 for the game. But I think Steve Finley was the first to get a three-ball count off of him - and then Spivey did it too. Is some of the sharpness Nomo started the game with starting to dissipate?

Fifth inning
A little bingo. Beltre gets an infield single, and Jolbert Cabrera makes the Dodger braintrust look good by following with a single of his own. Five hits off Johnson now, and hot-hitting Cesar Izturis up.

Ugh. Double play.

And Nomo goes down meekly. 1-0 Dodgers into the bottom of the fifth.

Getting tougher for Nomo. He needs 11 pitches - his total number of pitches in the first inning - to record his first out here in B5. But after Bautista flies out, Luis Gonzalez, who singled, is caught stealing. Baserunners thrown out today: Dodgers 2, Diamondbacks 2.

That gets Nomo out of the fifth with 60 total pitches - 29 in the past two innings. Still not bad. His spot in the batting order may not come again until after the seventh inning.

Sixth inning
Gotta love Tony Womack. His error lets Dave Roberts aboard leading off the inning - and then Roberts conquers new baserunning ground for these two teams, stealing second. Lo Duca then does something I would never have him do - bunting a runner from second to third. Just a wasted at-bat, even though he's successful. Your odds of scoring a runner from second with no outs, even with Johnson on the mound, are just simply better than getting him in from third with one out.

Green grounds to first and Roberts holds, validating my point.

But then Brian Jordan makes all of us look good - himself the most - with a two-run homer to left...

Now it's just a matter of the Dodger pitching staff holding the questionable Diamondbacks lineup to two runs over four innings. And Johnson may have to come out of the game now - he's due up third.

Nomo gets a first-pitch strike on Lyle Overbay to start the bottom of the sixth. Is it just me, or does that one pitch energize you after scoring in the top of the inning. Overbay flies out, and then Moeller strikes out on three pitches.

Johnson stays in but also strikes out on three pitches. An eight-pitch sixth inning for Nomo with two strikeouts. Fantastic for him.

Seventh inning
Cabrera and Izturis each with two hits off Johnson now. That'll shrink the news value of Mark Grudzielanek's 3-for-3 plus a walk for Chicago today. With one out, another bunting situation for Nomo - until Izturis steals second.

Didn't Nomo blast a double of Johnson last season? Yeah, he did. It's his only career hit off of him.

Well, Nomo strikes out for the third time. Johnson only has two other strikeouts.

A hit-by-pitch - ouch - loads the bases for Lo Duca. Can he bust it open? (Not to get greedy.) Johnson's at 92 pitches now - would they relieve?

Talk to me - a two-run single. 5-0 Dodgers.

Now here's where any mortal pitcher would come out of the game. You have to think Green is the last batter Johnson will face.

Especially now that Green has walked to load the bases again for Jordan, who homered his last time up. Yep - Johnson's done.

Now it's time to see what Jim Tracy does in 2003 with his defense when he has a late-inning lead. Candidates for substitution: Jordan, Cabrera and McGriff. He may wait an inning or so, but I would guess that at least the first two of these are gone by the ninth.

In fact, it starts with Alex Cora in for Cabrera.

Into the bottom of the seventh ... a little trouble for Nomo - two on with two out. No Hall-of-Famers coming up, but the Diamondbacks wouldn't be as successful as they've been if guys like Danny Bautista couldn't get a clutch hit.

But Bautista grounds out, and Nomo's through seven. In 80 pitches. This just is not Hideo Nomo. This is like vintage Kevin Brown. Will Nomo carry the Dodgers straight through to Gagne - or even past him?

Eighth inning
We'll forgive Fred McGriff his 0-for-4 debut - his season starts tomorrow against Curt Schilling. After Beltre doubles for the Dodgers 10th hit, my dad calls me from the road in San Francisco, saying "maybe there's hope." I tell him I've learned just to enjoy the good stuff while I can. But as he points out, what a day it is for Johnson, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine - three aces pounded.

Izturis is up with Beltre on second and two out. One would assume the Diamondbacks would walk even as weak a hitter as Izturis to force the Dodgers to forfeit Nomo, either at the plate or on the mound. And so it goes. Izturis now has a 1.750 OPS on the season.

Boy - Opening Day, two outs, two on in the eighth inning in a Randy Johnson-started game, and Nomo bats. Who'd have thought? So, can Nomo get the golden sombrero at the plate?

Talk to me.

So, Nomo's no hitting wonder. But, he slides through the eighth inning, allowing a single but striking out two. Did Nomo think that everyone on the Dodger staff was suspended for hitting Mike Piazza with a pitch. Eight innings, four hits, one walk, seven strikeouts, 91 pitches.

Ninth inning
In another ninth inning in Tampa Bay, Terry Shumpert just homered. What depth we had at second base.

Does the lead seem big enough that we're killing time now until the bottom of the inning? Roberts singles, and Lo Duca has fouled off three pitches in a row. He strikes out, but Green doubles for the second time, Jordan is walked intentionally to load the bases, and with a newbie named Stephen Randolph on the hill for Arizona, it's starting to feel like Spring Training never ended. A quick search on ESPN.com for information on Randolph - and there are no stats on him. Looks like this is his first major-league game. All they have to tell me is that he's 28, throws and bats left, was born on May 1, 1974 in Okinawa, Japan, attended Galveston (Texas) Junior College, and his full name is Stephen LeCharles Randolph.

The training continues. McGriff walks to get his first Dodger RBI, and it's 6-0.

The Diamondbacks have to rescue Randolph with Miguel Batista - once a key Arizona starter, now doing mopup. Although Schilling may mitigate these effects tomorrow, the Diamondback bullpen is getting a workout on day 1. Bullpen rest is always a nice advantage to have at the start of a series. Guess that means that I don't need any more tidbits on Randolph. Too bad - I just found out he won 15 games last year for AAA Tuscon and went 15-for-45 at the plate.

RBIs from Beltre and Cora off Batista make it 8-0 before, with Nomo's spot on deck, Izturis ends the inning. A total of 166 pitches for Arizona today.

Nomo comes out for the ninth. I was wrong about the defense, though - Jordan and McGriff are still in. Top of the order for Arizona. Womack grounds out. Finley grounds out. Can Nomo finish off the Diamondbacks in under 100 pitches? He's at 96 when Junior Spivey comes up.

With two strikes on him, Spivey fouls off pitch number 99. On #103, Spivey grounds out.

A masterpiece for Nomo and the Dodgers today.

I guess I managed to sneak in my handful of comments. What a fun game. After all the Spring Training buildup, this, if nothing else, was well worth the wait.

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