Terry Collins was feeling good when the first inning came to an end. The New York Mets managed to draw two walks, drive up Clayton Kershaw's pitch count, and even coax a run across against the Dodgers' ace.
Then they didn't score again until the ninth inning.
Kershaw kept New York off balance the rest of the afternoon, pitching well into the seventh inning and helping Los Angeles to a 4-2 victory that snapped a four-game losing streak.
"I thought we had him in the first inning," the Mets' manager conceded. "And I honestly thought when we got the bases loaded, we were going to score there, too, but we didn't."
That happened in the seventh inning, when New York put runners on first and third with two outs. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly finally lifted Kershaw (4-3) for Kenley Jansen, playing the righty-righty matchup against David Wright, who walked to load the bases.
Jansen then got Jason Bay to fly out to end the threat.
"He kept us off-balance," Wright said of Kershaw. "You know he's got that curveball. Even though he wasn't really throwing it for strikes, he can throw it enough to kind of keep you honest. And, as well, he was throwing his slider for strikes."
Indeed, the Mets may have taken the first two games of the series to make for a pleasant weekend, but the finale at Citi Field belonged to Kershaw and the Dodgers.
"We've been scuffling a little bit," Kershaw said. "We've always been in the games we've been losing, but it was good to hang on at the end."
Vicente Padilla gave up an RBI triple to Jose Reyes in the ninth before finishing for his fourth career save and second of the season. Padilla is closing games while Jonathan Broxton is sidelined with an ailing right elbow.
R.A. Dickey (1-4) kept New York in the game with his baffling knuckleball, allowing only one unearned run before Ethier's two-run shot in the seventh inning. That doomed Dickey to his fourth loss in six starts since beating Florida in his season debut on April 3.
"I can't be too disappointed," he said. "I had a fairly good knuckleball today and kept us in it against one of the best pitchers in the National League."
New York jumped ahead in the first inning when Kershaw issued a pair of walks and Ronny Paulino's two-out base hit brought home Justin Turner — but the lead didn't last long.
The Dodgers tied it in the third when Kershaw was hit by a pitch on the foot, then slid into second base on a passed ball. He advanced to third on a groundout before scoring on a base hit by Miles through the right side of the infield.
Los Angeles pulled ahead in the fourth on an RBI grounder by Rod Barajas.
The Dodgers wasted a chance in the fifth, when Carroll led off with a grounder to first base. Ike Davis fielded the bouncing ball but his toss forced Dickey to sky high to snare the throw, and he was unable to slap on the tag while covering the bag.
Uribe ended up going 0 for 4 and was hitless in 14 at-bats for the series, and the Dodgers went 0 for 5 with the bases loaded the final two games against New York.
For once, though, the wasted opportunities didn't come back to haunt them.
"You got to start somewhere, and it starts with one," Mattingly said. "We just have to keep playing, try to put some wins together."
NOTES: Mike O'Connor pitched two perfect innings of relief for New York. ... The Mets put RHP Chris Young (shoulder tightness) on the DL and selected the contract of LHP Pat Misch from Triple-A Buffalo before the game. ... Fitness celebrity Jillian Michaels attended the game.