The Mets came to town on a roll, having won 11 of their last 14 games. They leave having dropped both their last four games and out of first place in the NL East. In searching for their greatest enemy, all they would need is a mirror.
In each outing of this three game set, the Dodgers opened the scoring in the bottom of the first inning, only to have the Mets come back to tie or take the lead. However, New York could not finish any game still holding a lead.
Neither team proved to be an offensive juggernaut, nor even clutch in this series. New York collected only four hits in 27 at-bats with runners in scoring position and stranded 26 baserunners. Los Angeles went 4-for-30 while stranding 28 runners.
The Mets collected five extra base hits all series, all of them doubles—two by David Wright in the opener and two more by Carlos Beltran in the last. Of course, a triple was downgraded to a single in the first game as well. Meanwhile, the Dodgers secured only three extra base hits all series, two doubles and a home run.
May 18: Dodgers 3, Mets 2 (11 innings)
New York commits five errors with their leather and a major one with their feet to gift-wrap an early Christmas present for Los Angeles.
While I can't say I've never seen such an inept performance before, this type of effort is usually left for beer-league softball games.
As our old pitching ace Pat "The Wizard" McCormick—a dead ringer for the late Rod Beck—would say when the Brewers (named more for consumption than production) would have their struggles in Pasadena or Alhambra, "Someone throw a tent over this circus."
The Dodgers tallied twice in the first inning, but could have scored more off Met starter Tim Redding, who was making his first appearance of the season. Their offense then dozed off and on over the next nine innings, until Met ineptitude allowed them to finally go home and crawl into bed.
The Mets bounced back in the second, cashing in Wright's double to half the Los Angeles lead on an infield ground out by former Dodger Ramon Martinez, who was also making his season debut after being recalled from Triple-A Buffalo. This would prove to be Martinez's offensive highlight for the series, as he went 0-for-12 with three strikeouts.
After a lot of ducking and weaving by Dodger starter Randy Wolf, New York was able to push across the tying run in the eight on a slow thousand-hop ground single deep in the hole between first and second by another former Dodger, Gary Sheffield. Angel Pagan dented the plate to level the score.
Dodger reliever Ramon Troncoso was able to wriggle out of trouble in the 10th inning, stranding two runners. After recording two outs to start the 11th, he surrendered a single to Ryan Church. Angel Pagan smoked a drive to the wall in the right-center gap and Church rambled across the plate to give the Mets the lead. Or did he?
The Dodgers appealed the play, with Mark Loretta stepping on the third base bag occupied by Pagan, who was stunned when third base umpire Mike DiMuro signaled out. The call was made on Church, who rounded third awkwardly and missed touching the bag. Troncoso and Los Angeles had escaped without allowing a run.
Loretta led off the bottom of the 11th and drew a walk. Xavier Paul lifted a fly ball to left-center and Mets left fielder Pagan and center fielder Beltran could not decide who should catch the ball. So, neither did. Loretta scampered to third and Paul pulled into second on the error charged to Beltran.
Juan Pierre was walked intentionally. Given he is blazing hot with the bat—hitting over .400—and doing so will create a force play at the plate, that decision was fairly easy to make. Rafael Furcal lifting a fly ball to left, too shallow to bring in Loretta, made the strategy look good. An easy grounder to first by Orlando Hudson made it look even better.
However, the throw home by first baseman Jeremy Reed was well wide of the plate, and instead of a force with the chance to turn a double play, Loretta strode across the plate securing a victory for the Dodgers. The stunned Mets were left to slink off the field while Los Angeles celebrated their good fortune.
May 19: Dodgers 5, Mets 3
Dodger ace Chad Billingsley turned in a rare poor performance, immediately giving back an early lead, loading the bases on three walks and a wild pitch before seeing two come home on a single by Mets pitcher John Maine. New York scored another run in the third to take a 3-1 lead.
For the game, Billingsley allowed three runs on four hits and five walks. He struck out seven in six and one-third innings of work.
The first Dodger run was scored by Pierre, who's fly ball was whiffed by left fielder Daniel Murphy. Hudson brought him home with a single to center, but the inning was short circuited due to Andre Either's double play grounder.
Los Angeles fought back in the fourth when Casey Blake's two-out single was cashed in on a double by Billingsley, who also walked and singled in the game.
The sixth inning saw the Dodgers turn the tables on the Mets, as James Loney and Matt Kemp scored when Blake deposited a 1-0 changeup from Maine into the left field pavilion. Los Angeles now led 5-3 and only goose eggs would follow.
Brent Leach and Belisario would aid Billingsley in the seventh, then Corey Wade handled the eighth and Jonathan Broxton closed out the ninth to give Los Angeles their second win in two chances against New York. Billingsley's record moved to 6-1 while Maine's leveled at 3-3.
May 20: Dodgers 2, Mets 1
Trying to avoid a sweep, New York sent Livan Hernandez to the mound to face Jeff Weaver, who came out of the bullpen to make this start in place of the injured Eric Stults, who suffered a sprained pitching thumb in his previous outing while fielding a little tapper back to the mound.
Pierre scored a first inning run for the fifth concecutive day, coming home on a sacrifice fly by Either. For the series, Pierre was 3-for-10 scoring three runs and drawing seven walks.
He is hitting .407 with a .479 on base percentage and 1.003 OPS (on base plus slugging percentage). The OPS is third on the team, behind only Manny and seldom used infielder Juan Castro.
This would prove to be the only run Hernandez would allow in his seven innings of work. Weaver would go five innings and surrender a run in the third, when Beltran doubled home Luis Castillo. Beltran would collect another double and draw a walk on the evening to pace the Met offense.
This game would go to the bottom of the eighth tied where Hudson picked up a one out single. Ethier followed with a walk to move the O-Dog to second and he would scamper home on a single through the 5.5 hole by Russell Martin.
That would prove to be enough, as Broxton came on to earn his second save in as many nights, stranding Pagan on second when he retired Ramon Martinez (remember Ramon from the first game?) on a chopper to third baseman Blake.
Odds and Ends
The win moved Los Angeles to 29-13 on the season and increase their lead over second place San Francisco to eight and one-half games. The Mets fell to 21-19 and are in second, one game behind the Philadelphia Phillies.
Mets shortstop Jose Reyes left the final game in the fourth inning after re-aggravating his right calf muscle. He may be heading to the disabled list, where the Mets had earlier in the day placed infielder Alex Cora. First baseman Carlos Delgado is also there, most likely for another 10 weeks due to a torn labrum in hip.
The Dodgers pitching staff held the Mets hitters without a home run through the series. The Mets have now gone 69 innings since their last big fly, in the eighth inning on May 13 by Sheffield against Atlanta.
Dodger rookie pitcher Leach earned his first major league victory in game three of the series. He has thrown four and one-third innings over seven contests, allowing runs in only two games, while striking out five and walking two.
Troncoso has lowered his ERA to 1.69. He is 1-0 in 16 games and has worked 26.2 innings, allowing 22 hits while conceding only four walks. He has 14 punchouts and converted both of his save opportunities.
Another Dodger rookie hurler, who made the roster in a surprise out of spring training, Ronald Belisario continues to provide Los Angeles with another strong option out of the bullpen. Belisario is 1-2 on the season with a 2.70 ERA.
He has been called on by Joe Torre 21 times and pitched 23.1 innings, surrendering 19 hits and 11 walks while striking out 23.
The Dodgers have Thursday off, then the Angels, who think they are from Los Angeles, actually visit the city for the first time to face the hometown Dodgers.
Friday, Angel manager Mike Scioscia will send Jered Weaver (3-2, 2.59) out to face Clayton Kershaw (2-3, 4.60) in Kershaw's first outing since he flirted with a no-hitter. Want to give thanks to all the Bleacher denizens who were kind enough to comment on my previous article regarding the broadcast of that game.
Saturday features the Angels' John Lackey (1-0, 9.00) against Randy Wolf (2-1, 2.72). On Sunday afternoon, Matt Palmer (5-0, 4.26) takes the hill for the Angels, where he will be opposed by Dodger ace Chad Billingsley (6-1, 2.51)
The first two games begin at 7:10 p.m. PT, while Sunday will start at 1:10 p.m. PT. Fridays game will be broadcast on KCAL Ch. 9 in Los Angeles while the weekend games will be on Prime Ticket.