Yankees 6, Dodgers 2

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LOS ANGELES (AP)—Hideki Matsui and Hideo Nomo traveled thousands of miles to a different league before facing each other at last.

Matsui hit a three-run homer in his first at-bat against Nomo, and Brad Halsey won his major league debut Saturday in the New York Yankees’ 6-2 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

“He was an icon, he was a hero when he was playing in Japan,” Matsui said of Nomo, who starred in Japan’s Pacific League.

Matsui was nicknamed “Godzilla” when he played in the Central League. Their careers in Japan overlapped from 1993-94 before Nomo joined the Dodgers and “Nomomania” began.

Nomo struck out Matsui twice on split-fingered fastballs after giving up the homer on the same type of pitch.

“I could have gotten it a little lower, but that’s where I was trying to throw it,” Nomo said through a translator. “Naturally, I would like to come off the mound with our team leading, so giving up those four runs early in the game really hurt us.”

Neither Matsui nor Nomo was focused on each other.

“I was more excited about facing their whole lineup,” said Nomo, who also homered—marking the first time two Japanese players connected in the same major league game.

The second regular-season meeting between the division leaders attracted another sellout crowd of 54,876 on a cool, gloomy day that required the stadium lights to be on.

The largest crowd in Dodger Stadium history—55,207—saw the home team win 6-3 Friday night.

Halsey was called up earlier in the day from Triple-A Columbus, where manager and former Yankee Bucky Dent recommended him to Joe Torre. The magnitude of the situation struck Halsey when Alex Rodriguez threw him the ball in the first inning.

“It was awesome, and it’s pretty comforting also to know you have those guys behind you in the field because they’re such tremendous players,” Halsey said between sips of a postgame beer.

Halsey even got his first major league hit with a single off Nomo in the second. Nomo responded by hitting his homer against Halsey in the fifth.

“First win, first hit, doesn’t shave yet,” Yankees reliever Paul Quantrill said, laughing.

It was Halsey’s first at-bat since he was a high school sophomore.

“They shut me down. They were like, `He can’t swing it. Have him throw the ball,”’ he said. “I saw the first fastball and I was like, `You know what, I think I can hit one of those.”’

The 23-year-old left-hander gave up two runs and five hits in 5 2-3 innings, struck out three and walked one before leaving to a standing ovation from pinstripe-clad Yankee fans.

“You couldn’t ask for any more than that,” Torre said. “Even the home run to Nomo, he came right back and got people out. That’s a good sign. It was enjoyable to watch. He seemed relaxed, even though I knew he wasn’t.”

The Dodgers threatened in the seventh. Tom Gordon relieved Quantrill with runners at the corners and retired Milton Bradley to preserve a 4-2 lead.

Gordon retired the side in order in the eighth, and Mariano Rivera worked a scoreless ninth.

Rodriguez, who reached base safely in 53 consecutive games until Friday, had an RBI single in the eighth to give New York a 5-2 lead.

After a two-out intentional walk to former Dodger Gary Sheffield, second baseman Jose Hernandez fielded a ball hit by Matsui cleanly in the hole but threw wildly to first base for an error, allowing Rodriguez to score for a 6-3 lead.

Nomo (3-8) got into trouble early against the Yankees, who have the best record in the majors at 43-23. He needed 33 pitches to get out of the first.

Sheffield drove in New York’s first run with a two-out single after Nomo gave up consecutive walks to Rodriguez and Jason Giambi.

Matsui followed Sheffield’s hit by reaching out and pulling an 0-2 pitch just inside the right-field foul pole for his 12th homer, giving the Yankees a 4-0 lead.

A fan caught the ball and tossed it back.

“Matsui was badly fooled with the split-finger, but he got the barrel of the bat on it and hit it to the shortest part of the field,” Dodgers manager Jim Tracy said. “Beyond that, it was Hideo’s best outing of the year so far.”

After Matsui’s homer, Nomo allowed only one hit the rest of the way, retiring 15 of his next 16 batters, including 13 in a row. But the Dodgers didn’t muster much run support.

“Hideo pitched a heck of a ballgame,” Quantrill said of his former teammate. “The three-run homer, that was the game. The truth is he had Matsui beat on that pitch. Matsui was out front and he just happened to catch it.”

Nomo gave up four runs and four hits in a season-high seven innings. He struck out three and walked three.

The Dodgers’ first run came in the first on Shawn Green’s RBI grounder.

Notes

Yankees CF Bernie Williams extended his season-high hitting streak to 12 games, tying Rodriguez for the longest by a Yankee this season. … It wasNomo’s fourth career homer and first since last July 17 against St. Louis.

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