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Nomo's Return
2004-09-02 09:25
by Jon Weisman

My in-laws started arriving in town Wednesday - father-in-law, stepmother-in-law, sister-in-law, niece, niece - and let me tell you, it doesn't lend oneself a close look at a pitcher attempting a comeback from, well, disintegration. Let me put it this way: my best look at Hideo Nomo came when I had to make two diaper changes for Nipper 2, five minutes apart.

As it happens, though, that look came during the third inning. The first or second pitch I saw from Nomo was a crisp 88-mile-per-hour fastball, easily the snappiest pitch I've seen Nomo throw all year. Soon, when Arizona pitcher Brandon Webb came to the plate with two out, I gleaned that Nomo had retired the first eight batters of the game. Incredible, I thought. But early, still.

Just then, pitching to Webb, Nomo absolutely derailed, as if someone had stopped time, just like they did in that memorable 1980 made-for-TV movie starring Robert Hays and Pam Dawber, The Girl, The Gold Watch and Everything, snuck onto the field and drugged him. Four balls staggered to the plate, drunk, and Webb was aboard.

I was velcroing N2's diaper by that time, and only caught a few more split-second glances at the screen afterward. Runners on first and second. One run in. Three runs in.

For the game, Nomo lasted six innings, matching his second-longest outings of the year, threw 110 pitches, and outside of the third inning, allowed no runs, two hits and two walks in five. Even allowing for the somnolence of the opponent, I don't know how one wouldn't come away from this performance happy - happy that we didn't witness a further disintegration.

Fortunately, Jim Tracy carefully placed Nomo so he won't land his next start in the St. Louis terror chamber. (Honestly, the Cardinals are playing so well that I'm not sure the National League shouldn't dispense with the playoffs this year.) San Diego, Nomo's next scheduled opponent Monday, will still be tougher than Arizona, but against probable Padres starter Adam Eaton, I think Nomo showed enough Wednesday night that the Dodgers don't need to concede defeat. [Correction: I mixed up my days. Nomo's next scheduled appearance is Tuesday, again against Arizona. Even better.]

As for the more immediate future, the Dodger offense should wake up tonight against Casey Fossum, perhaps the worst National League starting pitcher in 2004 outside of Nomo. A victory would be nice, because terror indeed awaits in Missourah.

(I know, I know - the Cardinals pick up their bats one Silver Slugger at a time, just like ... never mind.)

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