LOS ANGELES - Clearing the fences has been a problem this season for Jason Bay, who has only six home runs. But after he worked on the mechanics of his swing with extra practice Friday, Bay's issue later that night was avoiding the fence, and specifically the leftfield gate of the Dodgers' bullpen.
Bay crashed into the chain-link fence while making a sprinting catch in the second inning, hyper-extending his back in the collision and crumpling to the ground. But true to his hockey-tough background, Bay stayed in the game - and the slumping Mets were fortunate that he did.
"It's not really a normal way you get contorted," Bay said. "I think my body took the brunt of it. Lucky it was chain link or I might still be out there."
Dropped to seventh in the batting order, Bay came up with the biggest hit of the night, a three-run double in the eighth inning that sealed the Mets' 6-1 victory over the Dodgers at Chavez Ravine.
"It was great," Bay said. "I felt like I had a good at-bats all night. We've been working a lot on certain things and it was to get some results. To see a little light at the end of the tunnel, knowing what you're working on is working. With the magnitude of it, that was big on a lot of ways."
Johan Santana (8-5) allowed one run and five hits in seven innings. Bobby Parnell and Francisco Rodriguez finished up as the Mets snapped a four-game losing streak. They also broke a streak of 13 consecutive games in which they had been held to four or fewer runs, their longest stretch since 2004.
"We've been trying and things are not going right for us," said Santana, who is 4-0 with a 0.65 ERA in four career starts against the Dodgers. "But it was huge to win this ballgame. I knew that I had to step up and somehow help my team to win. We just have to continue playing - this is not over yet. We still have a long way to go. We just have to be more consistent."
Manager Jerry Manuel didn't play Bay on Thursday to give him a mental breather, and after watching him during early batting practice Friday, Manuel didn't get to see the payoff later on. That's because first-base umpire Doug Eddings tossed Manuel in the second inning for arguing what the replay showed was a blown call on Luis Castillo's grounder to short.
"We are preaching effort and enthusiasm and energy," Manuel said. "We hit an infield hit, we think that we got a run, and we want to applaud that. Runs are tough to come by for us, so we try to get all of them that we can."
So bench coach Dave Jauss was at the helm for the Mets' second win in nine games of this road trip. For Bay, who was batting .111 (4-for-36) in his previous 10 games, the double was his first extra-base hit since July 4 and the RBIs were his first since July 6.
"For him to have success like we talked about after working out, doing what he did and took it right into the game, that's huge for us," Manuel said. "That's really big for us. Hopefully, that will get him going."
Jauss removed Bay for the bottom of the eighth inning for "precautionary reasons" and to allow him to get a head start to the trainer's room. But Bay didn't appear to be too banged up afterward, aside from the chain link-patterned bruises left on his knees.
"You know it's coming, but you kind of hope that you got that one step to put your arms out and kind of absorb it," Bay said. "I didn't - the body absorbed most of it. I kind of gathered my faculties after I smoked it and everyone was asking, 'What hurts?' And I said, 'I don't know yet. Give me a second.' That's why I was walking off the field."
Before Bay came through, it wasn't exactly an offensive explosion for the Mets. In the first inning, they scored when second baseman Blake DeWitt fumbled a throw for an error. Ike Davis smacked his 14th homer in the second inning and David Wright added a sacrifice fly in the eighth after Manuel - er, Jauss - used Angel Pagan, the new No. 3 hitter, to bunt runners over. Afterward, Manuel defended the strategy.
"With this type of lineup, we can do that, because you still have a fourth, fifth and a good sixth hitter that has batted fourth or fifth," he said. "So you can play that kind of game with this type of lineup - that's what they're there for, to set things up."
Santana was 2-0 with a 0.58 ERA in his previous four starts, so when the Mets supplied a quick 2-0 lead, he had to like his chances. With two on in the first inning, Santana fell behind 3-and-0 to James Loney before striking him out to end the threat. From there, Santana retired 10 straight before Russell Martin doubled to open the fifth inning, and L.A. got one run back on Jamey Carroll's sacrifice fly.
In the midst of a 17-inning scoreless streak, Manuel shuffled his lineup, and it worked immediately. Jose Reyes, batting in his usual leadoff spot, pulled the first pitch into the rightfield corner for a double. Castillo, moved up to the No. 2 hole, followed with a perfect bunt single down the third-base line.
After two batters, the Mets already were in business, with runners at first and third. But that's when things got dicey. Pagan, the Mets' new No. 3 hitter for the immediate future, took a called third strike from Dodgers starter Vicente Padilla.
Next up was Wright, and with two strikes, Castillo bolted for second. What followed should have been an inning-ending double play. Wright swung and missed for strike three, and catcher Martin delivered a strong throw to second that beat Castillo by about three steps as he didn't have a chance to slide.
But as second baseman DeWitt spun around to put on the tag, the ball was half-sticking out of his glove, and it popped loose when he slapped it on Castillo. The resulting error allowed Reyes to easily score the unearned run, but Carlos Beltran whiffed to strand Castillo, dropping the Mets to 6-for-40 with runners in scoring position since the All-Star break.
The Mets increased their lead to 2-0 in the second inning, but they should have tacked on at least one more run.
Padilla threw an eephus pitch to start off Davis with a called first strike, and with the count 1-and-1, he tried another 58-mph floater, or what Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully refers to as a "soap bubble." But Davis was ready this time, and he popped the bubble for a long home run over the centerfield wall.
Santana's poor bunt got Bay thrown out at third, but the Mets still had runners at first and second. That's when Loney made a great diving stop to rob Reyes of what could have been an extra-base hit down the rightfield line. Both runners moved up, and then it was up to Castillo, who slapped a grounder to the right of the charging Furcal.
It was a difficult play, and only the rifle arm of Furcal made it possible for him to get the out call from Eddings. The only problem was that the call was wrong. The replay showed that Castillo beat the throw by nearly a step, and a furious Manuel jogged out to get in the face of Eddings. After a relatively brief but spirited argument, Eddings tossed Manuel, whose only remaining impact on the game was his fingerprints on the changed lineup.