Dodgers drop the curtain on Mets, 5-1

Times Staff Writer

The Dodgers brought the good times back with them to Dodger Stadium on Monday night, continuing the roll they started here 11 days ago and toted along during a triumphant trip to Florida and Colorado.

There was a standing ovation for Chad Billingsley and a curtain call for Blake DeWitt during a 5-1 victory over the New York Mets that provided equal-opportunity enjoyment for the Dodgers.

Matt Kemp and Rafael Furcal also homered to help the Dodgers win for the ninth time in 10 games and continue their rapid ascent in the National League West. After trailing Arizona by seven games as recently as 12 days ago, the Dodgers moved to within three games of the Diamondbacks -- the closest they have been since April 10.

Billingsley (2-4) helped them get there with his second consecutive victory after four losses to start the season. The right-hander consistently pitched his way out of trouble for most of his six-plus innings, finally succumbing to a bout of wildness in which he fired a couple of pitches out of the reach of catcher Russell Martin in the sixth inning and then walked Luis Castillo leading off the seventh.

But relievers Joe Beimel, Jonathan Broxton and Takashi Saito retired the next nine batters in order to close out the victory.

DeWitt's curtain call came after the rookie third baseman belted his first career homer, a solo shot leading off the fifth inning that prompted his teammates to mob him with high-fives and pats on the back in the dugout -- after initially giving him the silent treatment.

"It was better than I thought it would be," said DeWitt, who had to be nudged out of the dugout for his curtain call by hitting coach Mike Easler. "I didn't really know what to do."

Said pinch-hit specialist Mark Sweeney: "That stuff never gets old."

Dodgers Manager Joe Torre said DeWitt wouldn't necessarily be demoted when Nomar Garciaparra, who has a strained left calf, is ready to come off the disabled list.

"We'll just wait and see when Nomar gets back what our options are," Torre said. "This kid, we know he's a big league player."

Kemp added a two-run homer later in the fifth inning against Mets starter Oliver Perez (2-3), who had just lost an eight-pitch battle in which Juan Pierre coaxed a full-count walk.

Dodgers hitters have made a habit of wearing down opposing pitchers; they entered the game seeing an average of 3.85 pitches per plate appearance, ninth-best in the major leagues. Last year, they saw 3.63 pitches per plate appearance, 29th in the majors.

Furcal pounced on a Perez curveball in the first inning, blasting his third pitch over the wall in left-center field for his team-leading fifth homer. It was Furcal's 23rd first-inning leadoff homer and his 11th as a Dodger, giving him sole possession of second place on the franchise list behind Davey Lopes (28).

The only Dodger who didn't appear to be enjoying himself was Andruw Jones, who was booed with increasing intensity after each successive at-bat. Jones hit a soft pop-up to shortstop Jose Reyes to strand Martin at third base in the fourth and grounded into an inning-ending double play in the sixth. He finished 0 for 3 and is batting .158.

There were better vibes for Billingsley, who stranded four runners in scoring position in the first five innings. The Mets managed their run in the sixth on Carlos Beltran's triple and Moises Alou's run-scoring single up the middle.

"I'm getting ahead of guys early and making them hit my pitches," said Billingsley, who has a 1.38 earned-run average over his last two starts. "Just pounding the zone and not making too many mistakes."


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