Mets' offense unable to back solid Takahashi

Mets' offense unable to back solid Takahashi

LOS ANGELES -- Even if he would rather have two pitches to Matt Kemp back, Hisanori Takahashi gave the Mets bullpen a breather and the struggling lineup every chance Thursday night.

But the Mets were shut out by the Dodgers, 2-0, at Dodger Stadium, the runs coming on Kemp's double off the wall in the first and a home run to left in the eighth. It was the fourth time the Mets have been shut out in their last 10 games.

Pitching with his spot in the rotation on the line, Takashi delivered seven innings, struck out five and allowed just three hits. It was enough for manager Jerry Manuel to say he'd give Takahashi another turn.

"I think what [stinks] is that we knew coming in that this was going to be a road trip," said Jeff Francoeur, the only Met with two hits. "We weren't expecting to go 8-3 and blow it away. But at the same time, we weren't expecting to be 1-7 with three games left. So we better come in tomorrow and get our heads out of our [rear ends] and get going, really. We're not helping our pitchers out and we're definitely not doing what we need to offensively."

Francoeur's second hit fell on a blooper to right in seventh inning. His first, though, was the start of the only scoring chance the Mets had, which was in the fifth. Francoeur singled to center off Dodgers starter Hiroki Kuroda and Chris Carter followed with the same, putting runners on the corners with one out for Josh Thole.

Francoeur, Carter and Thole were all inserted into the lineup Thursday to shake up an anemic offense that's gone 13 straight games without scoring more than four runs. Thole, a contact hitter, needed just a decently hit fly ball to tie the game at 1.

Instead, he struck out looking. Kuroda, who went eight innings, allowed five hits and struck out four, dropped a splitter low-and-away on 1-2.

"All the splitties I'd seen we're in the dirt," Thole said. "He bounced 'em, bounced 'em, bounced 'em and he threw the one to plate. It was a good pitch, but again, I got to put the ball in play."

With two down, Dodgers manager Joe Torre opted to walk Luis Castillo and load the bases for Takahashi. As bad as the Mets' lineup has been, Manuel said he wasn't going to turn to the bench, not after a 14-inning affair the night before.

"No, I would think that the amounts of outs left, and pretty much a one-run game, we should be able to [come back," he said. "Offensively we're still struggling. We still aren't able to put something together. It looked like we had a situation there first and third -- Josh is usually a contact guy, he takes a nasty split for a called third strike. That's the way things are going for us right now ... our bats are just silent."

Manuel had one other pinch-hitting opportunity, in the ninth. With closer Jonathan Broxton unavailable, the Dodgers turned to their other All-Star reliever, Hong Chih-Kuo, who had yet to allow a hit to a left-hander in 32 at-bats this season. Half of those at-bats ended in a strikeout.

Kuo walked David Wright, who was 1-for-3, on four pitches with one out. That brought up left-hander Ike Davis, who has hit lefties better this season but is in a 1-for-17 slump the last four games. He struck out swinging on four pitches, and a Francoeur groundout ended the game.

"I think Ike has a better chance against a power guy like that than he does against the flip-ems, those types of things," Manuel said.

The Mets had only two baserunners through the first four innings, and both of them were caught stealing by Dodgers catcher Russell Martin, who entered throwing out 30 percent of would-be basestealers. Wright was caught with two out in the first, and Jose Reyes with one out in the fourth.

"Those two changed the momentum in the game," Kuroda said.

Hitting coach Howard Johnson, who remembers ugly West Coast swings from his playing days, talked about continuing to be optimistic after the loss.

"Our approach is we try to be good, we try to be consistent, we try to put good at-bats together," he said. "The main thing is for me is there are certain guys individually who have been scuffling a little bit, so we're trying to get Jason [Bay] back on track, get Ike going again. Those things. Working Carlos [Beltran] into it, too."

Takahashi, whose changeup was his most effective pitch besides his fastball, said he didn't pay attention to Manuel's proclamation of Thursday as make-or-break for his immediate future as starter. "I don't think that way," he said. "I don't want to think about whether I can stay in the rotation or not, I just stay focused on the game and what I can do."

"Taka pitched very well and he threw the ball extremely well, mixed his pitches, got some strikeouts when he needed," Manuel said. "Kemp was just a thorn in the flesh tonight."

Kuroda and Takahashi met six times playing in Japan, and Kuroda went 4-0 in those matchups. Their matchup was a novelty in the U.S., too: Thursday was just the sixth time in Major League history a pair of Japan-born pitchers faced each other.

Evan Drellich is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.