Dodgers Come Up Short Against Mets' Hillman

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A check of baseball transactions confirmed that the storkish left-hander who swooped down on the Dodgers Sunday was not Randy Johnson of the Seattle Mariners.

But Eric Hillman sure fooled a lot of people, particularly Dodger hitters.

The tallest pitcher in New York Met history at 6 feet 10, Hillman stood tall on the mound en route to a five-hit, complete-game shutout in the Mets' 4-0 victory over the Dodgers before a crowd 38,456 at Dodger Stadium.

The obvious question: Who is this guy?

"I'd say that was probably the best game of his life," Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda said when asked his opinion of Hillman's performance.

"That's the first win for that guy, right?"

Right.

Hillman, 23, had two previous major league victories in his career but was 0-4 this season entering Sunday's game.

Earlier this season, the Mets sent him down to Tidewater to get a grip on his fastball and on his career.

In his last outing, Hillman gave up one run in eight innings in a no-decision.

Turns out he was only warming up.

Against the Dodgers, he struck out five and walked none.

He knew the comparisons with Johnson, another tall lefty with the Mariners, were coming.

"I'm fine being Eric Hillman," he said. "He strikes them out. I let them ground out."

The Dodgers hardly made a dent against him.

In the second, they stranded catcher Mike Piazza, who had doubled.

Jose Offerman made it as far as third in the fourth. No one else came close.

"You've got to give Eric a lot of credit," Met Manager Dallas Green said. "He did a lot of the things that we sent him down for, staying ahead of the hitters, using all of his stuff, bunting the ball."

Hillman had two sacrifice bunts and needed only 104 pitches to complete his work.

No Dodger had more than one hit off him.

Eric Davis, who went 0 for 4, conceded this much:

"He got us out. When you don't score runs, you're doing something. He wasn't overpowering, it was nothing we haven't seen. We just didn't get anything going."

Hillman got the only run he would need in the top of the sixth, when outfielder Joe Orsulak homered to right off hard-luck loser Ramon Martinez (8-6), who gave up four hits and one run in eight innings, striking out five and walking three.

"I was OK," Martinez said. "I pitched good enough to win if they would have given me a couple of runs."

Martinez wasn't the pitcher the Dodgers were worried about Sunday. That is would-be closer Todd Worrell, who gave up three more runs (two earned) and four hits in the ninth.

Worrell gave up some cheap hits, true.

And he wasn't helped by Raul Mondesi's throwing error in right that allowed runners to advance into scoring position and later score.

But facts are facts.

Worrell has struggled since returning from the disabled list with the strained forearm that has plagued him most of the season.

Thursday night, in the series opener, Worrell gave up three earned runs in two innings. After Sunday, his earned-run average ballooned to 10.03.

Worrell took little solace in the quality of the hits he gave up in the game.

"You don't want to give up runs, it doesn't make any difference how they scored," he said. "A hit is a hit, when it goes off the end of the bat or over the wall."

Worrell admitted he has not been able to get his slider down in the strike zone, probably a result of arm weakness.

"My slider is not that good anymore, at least not right now," he said.

Worrell said he is confident his arm strength will return.

"The only thing I can deal with is reality," Worrell said. "I'm not able to throw some pitches where I need to. I'm not as sharp as I need to be right now."

It's probably too late this season anyway. With the loss, the Dodgers finished the home stand with a 5-6 record and fell 15 games back of the San Francisco Giants.

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