Kathy Kmonicek, Associated Press
NEW YORK — Matt Kemp homered early and the Los Angeles Dodgers hammered a struggling Johan Santana before holding off the New York Mets 7-6 on Friday night.
Luis Cruz connected for his first major league home run and the Dodgers finally solved Santana (6-7), who entered 5-0 with a 0.50 ERA in five career starts against them. That included eight innings of three-hit ball in a 5-0 win June 30 at Los Angeles, but the two-time Cy Young Award winner has hit the skids hard since then.
Santana was pulled after three innings and fell to 0-3 with a 13.50 ERA in his last three starts, the worst three-game stretch of his stellar career. After missing last season following shoulder surgery, he is 3-5 with a 6.54 ERA in eight outings since throwing a career-high 134 pitches June 1 against St. Louis to finish off the first no-hitter in Mets history.
In addition to the two-run homers by Kemp and Cruz off Santana, the Dodgers got RBI singles from Jerry Hairston Jr. and Juan Rivera. The early offense benefited starter Aaron Harang (7-5), who allowed one earned run in five innings.
Rookie pinch-hitter Jordany Valdespin socked a two-run homer off Shawn Tolleson in the seventh to trim New York's deficit to 7-6. Javy Guerra got out of the inning, however, and Ronald Belisario threw a called third strike past David Wright with a runner on to end the eighth.
Kenley Jansen worked a scoreless ninth for his 17th save. With a runner on second, he struck out pinch-hitter Justin Turner and retired Andres Torres on a popup to end a game that took 3 hours, 41 minutes in an intermittent drizzle.
Four of Valdespin's six homers have come as a pinch-hitter, tying Mark Carreon (1989) and Danny Heep (1983) for the club's single-season record. Daniel Murphy had four hits for New York, including two doubles.
Dodgers third baseman Jerry Hairston Jr. made a tough play to deny his brother, Scott, a leadoff single in the eighth.
The Mets, who snapped six-game losing streak Thursday in Washington to salvage the final game of a 1-5 road trip, have lost eight of 11.
Andre Ethier doubled and scored twice for the Dodgers, who opened a 10-game road trip with their second straight victory following a 1-7 slide. He also got his second stolen base of the season and scored on Rivera's seventh-inning single to make it 7-4.
Bobby Abreu opened the game with an infield single and Kemp, who hit a game-ending homer Wednesday against Philadelphia for his first long ball in 17 games since April 30, went deep for the second consecutive at-bat.
Hairston, who was 0 for 18 against Santana, made it 3-0 with an RBI single. Wright and Ike Davis hit consecutive sacrifice flies in the bottom half off Harang.
Santana walked three batters with two outs in the second, and Ethier's four-pitch pass with the bases loaded made it 4-2. Cruz, filling in for injured shortstop Dee Gordon, drove a 1-2 pitch to left in the third to make it a four-run game.
Murphy had an RBI double in the fifth and Scott Hairston singled home a run in the sixth to cut it to 6-4.
But the Mets were unable to overcome the poor start by Santana, who threw 72 pitches in three innings. The 33-year-old left-hander yielded six runs on seven hits and has given up 19 runs, 28 hits and six homers over 12 2-3 innings in his past three outings.
Until his previous game at Atlanta, Santana had never given up six runs in consecutive starts. Now he's done it three times in a row.
NOTES: Dodgers RHP Chad Billingsley, on the DL since July 8 because of inflammation in his right elbow, was scheduled to throw a bullpen session at Citi Field. Manager Don Mattingly said he's "pretty confident" Billingsley will be able to start Monday in St. Louis. ... LHP Chris Capuano (9-5), who pitched for the Mets last season, starts Saturday for Los Angeles against 41-year-old Miguel Batista, who will be subbing for injured RHP Dillon Gee. ... Gee was greeted with hugs upon his return to the clubhouse following surgery last week to patch an artery in his pitching shoulder. The operation was intended to prevent another blood clot from forming like the one doctors broke up with a catheter a few days earlier. Gee will be sidelined for at least a couple of months and there's a good chance he'll miss the rest of the season. ... Mets closer Frank Francisco (strained left oblique) threw off a mound and said he felt no soreness. He plans to throw another bullpen Sunday and hopes to pitch in a rehab game early next week. The right-hander thinks he could be ready to come off the disabled list next weekend. He has been out since June 23.
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