The Mets hoped that Rafael Montero's second big-league start might yield better results. Even against the Dodgers -- and a roster outfitted with $235 million in talent -- manager Terry Collins thought the rookie would live up to his reputation as a "strike-throwing machine."
But by the fifth inning of last night's 9-4 loss, those hopes were dashed. Montero retreated to the dugout after 97 pitches, leaving his team with a five-run deficit that it couldn't erase.
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"You can't get that far behind these guys," said Collins, who watched his team slog through a 4 hour, 8 minute marathon.
Curtis Granderson recorded his first three-hit game as a Met, an outburst that included a single, a double and his sixth homer, a solo shot in the fifth. Lucas Duda homered for the first time since April 23, a two-run blast to bring the Mets within two runs.
But the Dodgers countered with nine runs and 15 hits against seven Mets pitchers, including three runs in the ninth.
Adrian Gonzalez smashed a two-run shot to key a pivotal four-run fifth, which the Dodgers (24-22) used to take command against the Mets (20-24).
"I tried to throw him a slider," Montero said through a translator. "Unfortunately, he found where to hit it."
The Mets have dropped five of their last six and fell to 5-13 in May. For the first time this season, they have dipped to four games below .500.
Montero, 23, made his name in the organization with his pinpoint control. It's how he rocketed up the chain, positioning himself to be the first man up in case of a rotation vacancy.
Yet, his second outing proved even more erratic than his first.
He failed to command his fastball, perhaps the biggest key to his success.
In 41/3 innings, Montero allowed five runs and seven hits, walking four. His ERA rose to 6.97. In two starts, he has allowed three home runs.
Said Collins: "He fell behind a lot."
With the score tied at 1 in the fifth, the Dodgers pushed ahead 5-1 behind the two-run blast by Gonzalez.
With Montero out of the game, the Mets ate into the deficit with a sixth-inning power surge that knocked out Josh Beckett (2-1).
Granderson launched a solo shot that hit the facing of the seats in front of the Shea Bridge to make it 6-2.
Chris Young followed with a rocket off the wall in left-center that went for a double and Duda piled on with his two-run shot that sailed over the 375-foot sign in right-center that cut the deficit to 6-4.
But that's the closest the Mets got, part of the price they paid for squandering opportunities.
Twice, the Mets loaded the bases with less than two outs. Twice, they came up empty.
The most frustrating example came in the fifth, when with one out and the bases loaded Daniel Murphy struck out.
Wright followed and ran the count full against Beckett. With a chance to do damage, Wright expected to see fastballs. Instead, Beckett unleashed three straight curves. Wright hung in there, fouling off two of them, before he caught one off the end of his bat and grounded out to second.
"He just never gave in," said Wright. "That's stubborn. That's knowing how to pitch."