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More Gagne Changes Mean More of the Same

He mows down Mets quickly in ninth, saving game for Nomo. Dodgers win, 2-1, despite only five hits.

May 08, 2003|Jason Reid | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — Is Eric Gagne even better than last season?

The Dodgers pondered the question Wednesday night after watching the All-Star closer dominate the New York Mets in a 2-1 victory at Shea Stadium.

"You know, he's obviously always nasty, but that changeup tonight was ... just incredibly ridiculous," catcher Paul Lo Duca said of his batterymate's nine-pitch, eight-strike ninth inning that helped the Dodgers even their record at 17-17.

"The three fastballs he threw, he just painted them on the black. It's not like we didn't already know how good he is, or that if we get him a lead we're going to probably win 99% of the time, but tonight was ... just incredibly nasty."

The right-hander needed only minutes to deliver the game's best performance before a crowd of 18,965.

"I feel good and I feel confident," Gagne said. "I just throw a lot of strikes. I throw my first pitch for strikes, so they're always on defense. Pretty simple, I guess."

Roger Cedeno struck out, Cliff Floyd fouled out to third and Tony Clark struck out as Gagne converted his 11th save in as many opportunities and 19th in a row spanning two seasons.

Left-hander Tom Martin also contributed to another outstanding effort, inducing an inning-ending, double-play grounder on his first pitch to Roberto Alomar in the eighth with the Dodgers leading, 2-1, and a runner on first.

Hideo Nomo (4-4) provided the Dodgers' 24th quality start, working 7 1/3 innings. Nomo gave up three hits and the run in the first inning on a double play.

"This guy knows what to do when he gets a lead," Manager Jim Tracy said of Nomo. "That's why he's a big-game, big-time pitcher."

The Dodgers, who had only five hits in Tuesday's 3-2 loss, made better use of five hits Wednesday, including three by Brian Jordan, scoring the go-ahead run in the sixth on a walk and two singles.

Jordan, who had two infield hits, beat out a slow roller to short that enabled Shawn Green to score from third.

The Mets got an impressive seven-inning effort from starter Steve Trachsel (0-2), but the Dodgers did just enough with Gagne in stellar form.

Watching Gagne work is usually a treat for the Dodgers, and they said Wednesday's show topped his greatest-hits list.

"That was about as devastating a save to three hitters that I can recall," said Tracy, whose club improved to 6-7 in one-run games. "When we're in the ninth inning, and there's three outs to go ... it doesn't matter who the opponent is.

"I'm not saying that it [a blown save] won't happen once in a great while. But, for the most part, that's a tough chore for the opposition, to even have to try to score a run off that guy."

Gagne, who had 52 saves last season, has given up only one run in 2003.

He leads National League relievers with 30 strikeouts in 17 1/3 innings. Opponents are batting .121 against Gagne, who has only four walks.

"He's not just throwing 97, 98 [mph], he's mixing it up now, which makes him more dangerous," Jordan said. "He's throwing that Bugs Bunny changeup on these guys, where they're looking for 97-mph heat. It's almost like you have no chance. It's just unfair."

Gagne raced through Cedeno, Floyd and Clark with the ease of an unopposed bullpen session. He had each batter on the defensive and guessing.

"I don't know which year to say he was better," Nomo said through an interpreter. "He's been great."

And Gagne?

"I'm older, more mature and more confident," said the second-year closer, who has an earned-run average of 0.52. "The more you go out there, the more confidence you feel. The more confidence you have, the better you are. That's how baseball works.

"There's always a fear of failure, but I can manage that a little better this year. I don't worry about it. I know it's normal, I know it's not a big deal."

*

Fresh Start

The Dodgers are the only National League team with a winning record against Tom Glavine, who starts today for the Mets. A look at Glavine's career statistics against the Dodgers (all with Atlanta):

Appearances ...42

Record...15-17

Complete games...8

Shutouts...5

Hits...291

Home runs...22

Strikeouts...171

Walks...94

ERA ...3.73

Earned runs...113

Innings...272 1/3

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