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Fernando Valenzuela has become such a mythological figure that...

By
AURELIO ROJAS

LOS ANGELES -- Fernando Valenzuela has become such a mythological figure that he's not expected to lose -- at least not to a one-time castoff like Ray Burris.

But the Los Angeles Dodgers' pitching ace lost 3-0 Wednesday night to the Montreal Expos and Burris, who handcuffed the Dodgers with a five-hit shutout to even the National League Championship Series at 1-1.

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Shutouts are expected from Valenzuela, who tied a major-league rookie record by pitching eight shutouts this season, not Burris, who has an undistinguished 72-83 lifetime record and who pitched his first shutout of the season Wednesday night.

So Fernando was in for some explaining.

'I felt good,' said the 20-year-old left-hander who was touched for six hits and three runs, two earned, in six innings. 'It was nothing physical. It seems like every time I lose, I get asked what went wrong. Well, the other team just played well and I didn't pitch well.'

Dodger manager Tom Lasorda said Valenzuela had trouble keeping his vaunted screwball low.

'He was getting his screwball up more than he normally does,' the Dodgers' skipper said. 'As a result, he got hit harder than he usually does.'

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Valenzuela predicted he would be ready to pitch Game 5 Sunday if necessary.

'I pitched well with three days rest in the past so it shouldn't be a problem,' he said. 'Anyway, I only pitched six innings today so I should be strong.'

Burris, who suffered the indignity of being let go by both the Chicago Cubs and the equally inept New York Mets, broke Montreal's jinx at Dodger Stadium and bolstered the team's confidence considerably. The Expos had lost 10 game in a row and 19-of-20 in Los Angeles prior to Wednesday night.

'This is very gratifying,' the 31-year-old Burris said. 'I've played for a number of managers and a number of clubs and this has to be the greatest experience of my career.'

'That's the best stuff I've ever seen him have,' Dodger first baseman Steve Garvey said. 'He changed speeds really well and kept us off balance.'

Expos' catcher Gary Carter, who had two hits in four at-bats, said the win changed the momentum of the series and put the Expos in control.

'We feel very confident now with three games in Montreal coming up,' he said. 'We are as confident there as the Dodgers are here.'

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But Dodger leftfielder Dusty Baker dismissed the notion that the Expos, who have compiled the best home record in the National League during the past three years, now hold the advantage in the series.

'Advantage?,' Baker asked rhetorically. 'Hey, the series is tied at 1-1 -- where's the advantage? Whoever wins two games in Montreal, that's who'll have the advantage.'

Montreal first baseman Warren Cromartie, who drove in one of the Expos runs with a double in the second inning, said that while the Expos are confident, they won't be overconfident in the three-game weekend series.

'You've got to give us credit,' Cromartie said. 'We went out and swung the bat and simply beat them. Now it's a different series. Our chances are good. But you'd better believe that the Dodgers aren't going to die on us.'

Carter has advised the Dodgers to bring their long underwear to Montreal where it was 44 degrees at 1 p.m. Wednesday, but Baker said the intemperate conditions wouldn't make a difference.

'It doesn't matter how cold it will be,' he said. 'Baseball is baseball and we've all played in cold weather before.'

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