Slumping Mets fall to Dodgers

Slumping Mets fall to Dodgers

LOS ANGELES -- Willie Randolph wore the look of a frustrated man. Though it may be too early in the season to warrant a full-fledged panic attack, the Mets again saw more signs that they did not want to see Monday night. Then they ran into a Dodgers bullpen that reminded them of how unkindly the month of June has treated them.

Orlando Hernandez gave back a three-run lead with command uncharacteristic of him. The Mets could not knock out Dodger starter Randy Wolf before the veteran left-hander figured out how to survive without his best stuff. Shawn Green returned to the lineup with two hits and David Wright hit bullets right at Dodgers outfielders. Dodgers relievers Chad Billingsley, Jonathan Broxton and Takeshi Saito were perfect in the final three innings to finish off the Mets, 5-3, before 40,467 in the first of a three-game series at Dodger Stadium.

The Mets (36-26) retain a two-game lead over the idle Atlanta Braves in the National League East, but their June nose dive now includes a 2-8 record.

"I think, when you lose a few in a row you're going to press, but we have too much of a veteran team to panic," Wright said. "We're playing good teams. It's not like we're getting beaten by the lower echelon teams. We're getting beaten by quality teams. It's something that seems like, when we pitch well, we don't hit and when we hit, we don't pitch well."

Or, sometimes, that scenario occurs within the same game. Hernandez (3-2) had a 3-0 lead and retired nine of the first 10 hitters he faced. But a leadoff walk to Juan Pierre in the fourth inning sparked a three-run inning for the Dodgers (36-28). Pierre stole second base and scored on Russell Martin's single, the first hit Hernandez gave up.

After Hernandez got Jeff Kent to pop up, his backdoor breaking ball got too much of the plate against Luis Gonzalez, who rifled an RBI double to right field, his first of two doubles. Andre Ethier followed with a bloop RBI single into shallow left field, tying the score at three.

"The leadoff walk didn't help any," Randolph said. "[Hernandez] left a breaking ball up. You can't do that. He threw the ball well to that point."

Hernandez, who threw 113 pitches in 5 2/3 innings, labored into the sixth. He gave up another double to Gonzalez, the 561st of his career, which surpassed former Met Eddie Murray on the all-time list and gave Gonzalez possession of 19th place on the all-time list. One batter later, first baseman James Loney, recalled from Triple-A Las Vegas on Sunday, drove an RBI double to left field to score Gonzalez.

Left fielder Carlos Gomez dove for the ball and wound up crumpled beneath the warning track. He was slow to get up, but Randolph said after the game that Gomez was not injured.

Hernandez enticed Tony Abreu to tap into a fielder's choice. Catcher Paul Lo Duca tagged Loney for the out at home, but his poor throw to first sailed down the right-field line and allowed Abreu to advance to third.

Wilson Betemit, pinch-hitting for Wolf, blooped a single into shallow left-field to score Abreu, giving the Dodgers a 5-3 lead, and ending Hernandez's outing.

Hernandez (3-2) allowed seven hits and five runs (four earned) in 5 2/3 innings. His ERA rose from 1.94 to 2.38. He struck out four and walked three. After a total of five walks over a span of four outings, Hernandez had seven walks in his last two starts.

"He had pretty good command, but he might have left a few of his pitches up later in the game," Gonzalez said. "It wasn't like we were exactly knocking the cover off the ball to drive in runs. I hit the double on a backdoor breaking ball and Ethier hit one off the end of the bat over shortstop."

Such are the breaks when the losses are mounting. Billingsley, Broxton and Saito, who recorded his 17th save, were flawless. Wolf (8-4) gave up nine hits and three runs (earned) in six innings, but escaped a potentially game-changing jam in the fifth inning. With runners at first and second and one out in a tied game, Wolf got Wright to line out to Gonzalez in left and struck out Carlos Delgado with a slow curveball to end the inning.

"That's what happens when you scuffle," Wright said. "You hit the ball hard at people and the other guys hit 'tweeners and bleeders that find holes."

The Mets are looking for what works and trying not to lose their minds in the process.

Green (2-for-4 in his return from a broken foot) and Wright, who extended his hitting streak to 13 games and had his home run streak snapped at four games, touched Wolf for RBI singles in the first inning. Delgado doubled to begin the fourth and scored on Gomez's single, but the Mets were never heard from again.

The Mets refuse to let the tension become visible. Still, there's mounting pressure for the losing to stop.

"The good teams are the ones that knock it off after 10 games or so, instead of it going on for six weeks," Green said.

They had to look no further than at Randolph's expression after the game, which resided somewhere between anxiety and annoyance.

John Klima is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.