"Padilla was sensational," manager Joe Torre said. "He was economical with his pitches [77 in seven innings]. We couldn't generate offense and let it get away in the eighth."
Torre pinch-hit for Padilla with two outs and a runner on in the bottom of the seventh inning, looking for the tying run, but Ronnie Belliard grounded out.
"Obviously the wrong decision," Torre said. "We couldn't stop them from scoring. I wish I did something else."
Jeff Weaver took over and walked the first two batters he faced. Before the inning was over, James McDonald (intentional) and Jack Taschner also would issue walks, all four of them scoring, three on Jason Bay's double off Travis Schlichting.
Rookie Kenley Jansen didn't get into this game, but he was called up Friday. He's the former catcher who has been pitching professionally less than a year, but he's now in the Major Leagues because desperate times call for desperate measures.
That eighth inning would have been an ideal time for Torre to call on Ronald Belisario to keep the game winnable, but he's reportedly in substance abuse rehab and nobody knows when, or if, he'll return. That eighth inning was the reason the Dodgers last year acquired George Sherrill, but he's been so ineffective his days seem numbered.
Torre couldn't argue when asked about missing Belisario.
"He was pretty durable and he graduated to a role pitching late in the game and with men on base and more times than not, very well," said Torre. "We knew that when he was taken away, he was not going to be easy to replace. We're just not able to shut people down out of the bullpen. If we're going to do anything this year, we have to figure it out."
The bullpen's troubles are now magnified by an offense that has scored two runs or fewer in six of the nine games since the All-Star break.
"It's uneven," said Torre. "Casey [Blake] is swinging really well, James [Loney] is struggling, Matty [Kemp] is coing around, Andre [Ethier] is fighting it [.121 since the break]. Russell [Martin] had good at-bats tonight. But we can't get it all together. [Rafael Furcal] hit some balls, but you can't stay as hot as he was for a month or so. We're not putting enough hits together."
And the uneven offense played right into Santana's game plan. He's 4-0 with a 0.65 ERA lifetime against the Dodgers.
"You don't usually get many opportunities with him and he was no different tonight," Torre said. "We were that close for that long, you like to think we could break through. But he's done this for years and it's no surprise it was a close game. Unfortunately, we wasted an outing by Padilla like that."
Although the Mets came into this game reeling, Santana had inspired defensive play behind him. There were diving and tumbling catches all over the place, none more spectacular than Bay smashing knee-first into the Dodgers' bullpen gate after flagging down Jamey Carroll's bid for extra bases in the second inning.
"You know it's coming, but you kind of hope that you've got that one step to kind of put your arms up and kind of absorb it and I didn't," Bay said. "The body absorbed most of it. But I kind of gathered my faculties after I smoked it."
Padilla had to work a little harder. He was put in an early hole when Blake DeWitt's error led to an unearned run in the first inning and Ike Davis led off the second inning with a home run. But at one point, Padilla retired 17 consecutive Mets.
"I'm not a pitcher, but I imagine it's frustrating when you pitch like that and don't get a win," Martin said. "There's nothing you can do about it. There are times you don't throw so well and the hitters pick you up."