SEATTLE — The Dodgers believe rookie pitcher Eric Gagne has a bright future, and they will benefit from his development.
Of course, it may take a while.
The right-hander had the worst outing of his brief career Saturday night in a 11-0 interleague loss to the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field.
Gagne (1-5) struggled with his command and was chased after only 3 1/3 innings before a sellout crowd of 45,248.
He was charged with a career-high eight runs and appeared uncomfortable from the outset against the Mariners. They noticed and seized the opportunity.
Seattle scored four runs in the third and fourth innings to break the game open and take a 9-0 lead. John Olerud hit a three-run home run against Gagne in the third and matched his career high with five runs batted in.
The Dodgers? They had five hits, one night after getting only four hits in an 11-inning victory.
Mariner starter Aaron Sele (11-3) was in charge in seven scoreless innings. Gary Sheffield's fourth-inning infield single was their first hit, and the Dodgers didn't do much after that.
Brett Tomko worked the final two innings for Seattle (50-35), which leads the American League West by two games.
The Mariners rebounded after the 3-2 loss in the series opener--and losing all-star shortstop Alex Rodriguez. Their franchise player will be sidelined at least a week after suffering a concussion and knee injury trying to break up a double play Friday.
Seattle didn't need him to rout the Dodgers (44-41). The Los Angeles winning streak ended at three games as Gagne got pounded.
It was a painful learning experience. And not only for Gagne.
"I thought he was coming along," Manager Davey Johnson said of Gagne, whose earned-run average increased from 4.58 to 5.43. "It looked like he got more into throwing mode today. You can't do that, you've got to pitch.
"He wasn't locating real well, and he tended to rush a little bit. But that's part of the development of a young pitcher. You get a good one [start], and a bad one."
Gagne said he hasn't had many good ones lately.
"I don't know what it is right now, but nothing is working," said Gagne, who has two losses and two no-decisions in his last four starts. "I need to do something to get people out, and I'm not doing it.
"I had a pretty good plan today, and I just didn't execute it. I'm working on a lot of different things--but I just have to do it."
There were mitigating factors.
Jim Leyritz was Gagne's batterymate because everyday catcher Todd Hundley suffered a severely bruised right thumb in Friday's game, and backup catcher Chad Kreuter is serving an eight-game suspension for his role in the May 16 melee with fans at Wrigley Field.
The switch-hitting Hundley was the designated hitter Saturday because he can bat left-handed despite the injury, but can't throw. Leyritz caught for the first time with the Dodgers.
And umpire Paul Schrieber's strike zone wasn't good for Gagne. He threw balls early in counts and got into trouble.
However, Gagne refused to make excuses.
"I just have to execute the plan and make my pitches," he said. "When I don't do that, I'm not going to get outs."
On offense, the Dodgers were getting plenty of outs. It might have helped if Mark Grudzielanek had played, but he sat out his second consecutive game because of flu. F.P. Santangelo hasn't been hitting, so the Dodgers started rookie Mike Metcalfe at second base and he went 0 for 3.
Gagne left with the Dodgers trailing, 6-0, in the fourth. He gave up seven hits, walked four and struck out one while throwing only 39 strikes in 71 pitches.
Jamie Arnold didn't fare much better. The Mariners scored two more runs in the fourth with the right-hander on the mound, pushing the lead to 9-0.
Arnold went the rest of the way, giving up three hits in 4 2/3 innings. He walked five and was charged with three runs.
Still, Gagne was the Dodgers' focus.
"He just gets too fast and starts rearing back for a lot more, and sometimes he should be thinking a lot more," pitching coach Claude Osteen said. "That's not a criticism, that's just the stage he's at. He knows he has to learn."
Fortunately for Gagne, the Dodgers do too.