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Ishii strikes out 10 Rockies in 5 2/3 innings

4/7/2002

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Anyone for Ishii-mania?

Kazuhisa Ishii sparkled in his major league debut, and Brian Jordan hit a grand slam to lead the Los Angeles Dodgers to a 9-2
victory over the Colorado Rockies on Saturday night.

Ishii (1-0), the second Japanese-born pitcher in Dodgers history, allowed two hits and struck out 10 in 5 2/3 scoreless innings. In his final spring tuneup last Sunday at Seattle, he surrendered five runs, five hits and seven walks in 2 1-3 innings.

"The biggest difference was my concentration level," Ishii
said through a translator. "Virtually all my teammates came up to
me after that game and gave me encouragement. And for them, I
wanted to win this game."

Following Hideo Nomo's path to Chavez Ravine, Ishii signed a $12.3 million, four-year contract with Los Angeles after 10 distinguished seasons in the Japanese League.

A 28-year-old left-hander who pitched in six of the last 10 Japan Series Championships for the Yakult Swallows, Ishii befuddled a Colorado offense that included the last two NL batting champs and led the league in batting average and runs scored last season.

After averaging better than a strikeout per inning in Japan,
Ishii's total against the Rockies tied the Los Angeles record for
the most strikeouts by a pitcher in his first big league game _ set
by Pedro Astacio on July 3, 1992, against Philadelphia.

"He had the curveball going early in the game, and later on he
had that changeup that kept us off-balance," Benny Agbayani said. "He had an advantage because this was the first time we've seen
him. But now that we've seen what he's got, we can make our
adjustments off of that the next time."

Despite a good-sized turnout of Japanese media and an
appreciative crowd of 38,693, Ishii's first big league game bore
none of the frenzy associated with Nomo's first season in the
majors -- when the stoic right-hander with the corkscrew delivery
was named NL rookie of the year, and "Nomomania" became one of
baseball's buzz words.

Seven years, 82 victories and two no-hitters later, Nomo warmly greeted Ishii with applause and a handshake when he returned to the dugout after slipping a called third strike past three-time batting champ Larry Walker to end the first inning.

"Nomo has won many games in the major leagues and has a lot of experience, so I was very happy to receive his advice," Ishii said. "He's talked to me about various things, but the one thing in particular that I remember was his tips on my form."

Throwing an assortment of nasty sliders, curveballs and
off-speed pitches, Ishii retired his first nine batters and fanned
eight of his first 14 -- including 2000 NL batting champ Todd Helton twice.

"I don't know who had the advantage, but I've seen Helton and
Walker many times on television," Ishii said. "I know that
they're good hitters, and because of that, I really wanted to bear
down on those particular hitters. Paul Lo Duca, my catcher, really helped me out in pitching to them."

Ishii, who threw 57 strikes among his 95 pitches, issued a pair
of one-out walks in the sixth and watched both runners advance on a
fly to center by Helton. But Giovanni Carrara came in and struck
out Todd Zeile.

Jordan hit his fifth career slam off reliever Todd Jones,
capping the Dodgers' six-run seventh. It was Jordan's first home
run since joining Los Angeles in a Jan. 15 trade with Atlanta for
Gary Sheffield, who had 113 home runs and 310 RBIs for the Dodgers
during the previous three seasons.

"I couldn't care less about Sheffield's numbers," Jordan said.
"I keep telling everybody that I'm not here to replace Sheffield.
I'm here to be Brian Jordan -- and that's to drive in 100 runs and get 20-to-25 home runs. And as long as I produce, that's all that matters to me."

Mark Grudzielanek had an RBI double for the Dodgers, who also
got run-scoring singles from Lo Duca, Eric Karros and Cesar
Izturis.

The Rockies scored both their runs in the seventh against
Carrara with a sacrifice fly by pinch-hitter Todd Hollandsworth and
an RBI single by pinch-hitter Juan Pierre.

Rookie Jason Jennings (0-1) was charged with three runs and
seven hits in six innings. The right-hander was 4-1 in seven starts
last season, including victories in his first three big league outings.

Game notes
Nomo made his big league debut on May 2, 1995, at San Francisco, and pitched five scoreless innings, but the Dodgers lost
4-3 in 15. Nomo struck out seven and allowed only one hit. ...
Ishii and Nomo, among 11 Japanese players currently in the majors,
had identical records of 78-46 in the Japanese League. Nomo pitched
for the Kintetsu Buffaloes. ... Ishii got some defensive help in
the fifth from CF Dave Roberts, who robbed Agbayani of extra bases
with a leaping catch before crashing into the fence. ... Ishii's
contract includes club options for 2006 and 2007. He allowed 12
earned runs over 8 1/3 innings in four relief appearances during
spring training.