In a word, Maine tagged

Maine allows three straight homers

LOS ANGELES -- John Maine was sitting in his locker stall hours before the game, quietly filling out a crossword puzzle. He looked up only occasionally, his eyes visibly swirling as he searched his mind for the fitting word.

What transpired a few hours later on the Dodger Stadium mound could best be called a seven-letter word not only for Maine's outing, but a proper term for the Mets' June slump that intensified Tuesday night: surreal.

Maine surrendered three home runs on three consecutive pitches in the second inning, including the first Major League home run hit by Dodgers pitcher Hong-Chih Kuo. Maine salvaged a respectable outing, but the damage was final.

Kuo was a three-letter word for effective and the Mets continued their batting slump in a 4-1 loss.

The Mets continue to search for solutions for a June slide that has now cost them all four series they have played this month and dropped their record to 2-9. Maine gave them a respectable outing in the face of difficult circumstances, but outside of Carlos Delgado's RBI single in the second inning, he got limited assistance.

"We need to step it up," said third baseman David Wright, who had two of the Mets' five hits, extending his hitting streak to 14 games with a first-inning single that was also the 500th hit of his career. "It's getting to the point now where it's beyond a little slump. It's beyond a little rut. We need to step it up and play the type of baseball that we're capable of. This isn't us. This isn't what we're about. We're getting to the point where guys, including myself, need to step it up and get the job done."

Maine had a 1-0 lead in the second inning, but paid the price for his style of pitching on the corners with his fastball. Wilson Betemit, behind in the count 0-and-1, tore into Maine's next pitch and drove it into left-center field for his sixth home run of the season.

Outfielder Matt Kemp followed and curled the next pitch inside the left-field foul pole, pulling an estimated 447-foot drive into the loge, Dodger Stadium's second deck. It was his first home run of the season.

Kuo then supplied a jolt into right field and became the first Taiwanese-born Major Leaguer to hit a home run. Kuo flipped his bat and said he had no doubt about it, which was fitting considering the Dodgers had just laid the three-pitch, three-home run Reggie Jackson 1977 World Series treatment on the Mets.

Pitching coach Rick Peterson came to the mound for a brief conversation, but Maine was probably short of words to describe the shock both he and the Mets (36-27) felt.

"Johnny made some pitches in the wrong location and they jumped on them," manager Willie Randolph said. "It happened suddenly and very quickly."

It was the first time a Mets pitcher had surrendered three consecutive home runs since April 1, 1997. On Opening Day of that season at old Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego, Mets right-hander Pete Harnisch gave up consecutive home runs to Chris Gomez, Rickey Henderson and Quilvio Veras in a 12-5 loss to the Padres.

"You make three pitches across the plate like that, that's going to happen," Maine said. "It was still a 3-1 game. It was winnable. You can't think about it."

But for the slumping Mets, they did not recover.

"We're just not doing the things we're capable of doing," said Wright. "We're not playing the aggressive style of baseball. The pitching is solid. We need to score runs. It's on the offense. If we're not hitting three-run home runs, we need to settle down and generate runs, make better pitch selection and start drawing some walks."

Kuo (1-1) has solved the Mets before. He pitched seven innings Tuesday night, scattering five hits and one run. He walked one and struck out four and has both of his Major League victories against the Mets, also winning last September at Shea Stadium. In 16 career innings against the Mets, he has given up one run.

The Mets were 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position and Kuo retired 17 of the final 21 batters he faced after Carlos Delgado's RBI single in the second. Maine (6-4) allowed seven hits in 5 1/3 innings, allowing four runs with two walks and two strikeouts. He is winless in his last three starts, though he's kept the Mets close in those games.

"When you get in these situations, guys start pressing," Wright said. "They want to hit home runs. We just need to get the line moving."

Kuo and relievers Jonathan Broxton and Takashi Saito, who recorded his 18th save, combined to retire the last 10 Mets consecutively.

The Mets will send right-hander Jorge Sosa (6-1) to the mound Wednesday to try to avoid the series sweep, something Randolph believes the Mets must do. Call it a four-letter word for dealing with adversity.

"This is a test," he said. "We have to find a way to get a win Wednesday."

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