LOS ANGELES -- They sprinted out of the dugout in the 12th inning, a sea of Dodger blue mobbing their latest hero, Adrian Gonzalez.
These Dodgers will lose again. The very nature of the game dictates that a night will come when they don't have all the answers. But that night didn't come against the Mets, who limped out of this house of pain after an excruciating 5-4 loss to the Dodgers.
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Three times in this series the Mets stood up to baseball's unbeatable team. Three times they played well enough to come out as winners. And three times they tasted bitter defeat.
"You're never happy when you lose three straight when you have a chance to win," manager Terry Collins said.
Wednesday night, it was Gonzalez who delivered the final blow in a stirring comeback that gave the Dodgers their eighth straight victory, their 40th win in their last 48 games.
The electrifying Yasiel Puig began the final rally with one out in the 12th, when he hit a grounder up the middle that shortstop Omar Quintanilla deflected before it trickled into centerfield. He slowed the ball just enough for Puig to slide into second with a double. Gonzalez followed by slicing the game-winner down the leftfield line against lefty specialist Pedro Feliciano.
The Mets, who once led 4-0, had come oh close -- within three outs -- of finally throwing some cold water on the red-hot Dodgers.
Marlon Byrd bashed a three-run homer, Dillon Gee tossed six solid innings, and lefty Scott Rice tossed two scoreless innings. The Southern California native pumped his fist as he walked off the mound in the eighth, with the Dodgers in danger of losing for only the fourth time since the All-Star break.
Of course, it wasn't going to be that easy for the Mets, not against these Dodgers.
"They just kind of proved why they're that hot right now," Gee said. "They came back every single night. They're grinders and they're playing well."
Fill-in closer LaTroy Hawkins endured a ninth inning filled with pain. After allowing a leadoff single to Mark Ellis, he took Jerry Hairston's comebacker off his groin, forcing the pitcher to take a few minutes to compose himself.
"I feel like I got kicked by a mule," said Hawkins, who couldn't walk for half an hour after leaving the game.
But more pain followed when Andre Ethier unloaded on a mistake. His game-tying shot sailed just over the 375-foot sign in left-center. Dodger Stadium shook as he rounded the bases, paving the way for extra innings on a night in which the Mets seized the driver's seat.
For two games, the Dodgers smothered the Mets' bats, though they came to life against old friend Chris Capuano. The former Mets lefthander surrendered four runs and 10 hits during five bumpy innings.
The Mets used a two-out rally to get on the board in the second, when Ike Davis reached on a fielder's choice, stole second and scored on Andrew Brown's double to make it 1-0.
The Mets pushed ahead 4-0 in the third inning thanks to one timely swing by Byrd. Career home run No. 100 came an inning after Byrd ensured his own place in future highlight reels.
After Byrd led off the second with a single, Justin Turner blooped a single to rightfield in front of Puig. Running all the way from first, Byrd aggressively rounded second, thinking third base was there for the taking. But Puig picked up the ball on the second bounce then unleashed a rocket toward third. Puig's momentum forced him to the ground, from where he watched his perfect throw arrive at third without a hop to nail Byrd.
However, redemption time rolled around quickly. Daniel Murphy led off the third with a single. Josh Satin followed suit. That brought up Byrd, who launched Capuano's sinker over the fence in leftfield for his 18th homer.
Given a lead to protect, Gee stood his ground, even though his hold on the game grew more tenuous by the inning.
The Dodgers didn't manage a hit until Carl Crawford lined a single to begin the fourth. But once the Dodgers got going, they turned up the pressure.
Gee escaped a bases-loaded jam unscathed in the fourth inning, though in the sixth, he wasn't as fortunate. Adrian Gonzalez singled, Hanley Ramirez doubled, and Skip Schumaker was plunked. With the bases loaded, Mark Ellis just barely beat out a double play grounder, allowing Gonzalez to score the Dodgers' first round.
Jerry Hairston Jr. followed with an RBI single to trim the Mets' lead to two runs.
But before turning it over to the bullpen, Gee bounced back to strike out Tim Federeowicz, which kept the Dodgers from piling on.
But, as is often the case with these Dodgers, the reprieve proved only temporary.