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Martin's big hit preserves Kershaw's gem

Martin's big hit preserves Kershaw's gem

LOS ANGELES -- It was a lift for a struggling catcher and more of a lift for a team that had lost six of seven before this four-game series began.

No. 8 hitter Russell Martin hit a two-out double into left-center in the eighth inning on Sunday afternoon, plating Casey Blake and ending a series-long stalemate of offenses in a 1-0 win over the Mets.

"We play close games better than the other way," manager Joe Torre said. "This was a huge win for us."

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Blake's one-out single in the eighth off Pedro Feliciano was the Dodgers' first hit since the fifth inning, and the third of their four hits on the day. A flyout by pinch-hitter Rafael Furcal brought up Martin, who connected on Feliciano's first pitch, a hanging slider.

"Mentally, I think you have to understand how hard it is every day," Torre said of Martin's progress. "You've got to really kick out the frustration, because there are people out there trying to keep you from doing what you need to do. ... You have to have the state of mind to handle the failure."

The late-scoring run made a winner out of starter Clayton Kershaw, who went eight innings, after Kenley Jansen struck out another pair of batters in his second Major League appearance for his first career save.

Jansen, the 22-year-old catching convert, has been "a breath of fresh air," as Blake put it, for a team that plays its next 10 games against National League West opponents, seven of those against the first-place Padres. Los Angeles is six games out.

"We're behind right now in the standings, but we all believe that we know where we're going to finish," Martin said. "That's all that matters."

Both the Dodgers' and Mets' offenses have been struggling, and both starting pitchers took advantage. Charged with giving the bullpen a rest after the club used every reliever it had on Saturday, Kershaw allowed seven hits, one walk and struck out three in eight innings.

"We had some good at-bats," said Mets third baseman David Wright, who finished 1-for-4. "We hit some balls hard right at them. Going up against one of the best young pitchers in the game, [we] just couldn't scratch through."

On the other side, knuckleballer R.A. Dickey struck out six in 5 2/3 innings and was locked up with Kershaw until he was removed in the sixth inning with an injury to his left leg. Dickey vociferously objected to being pulled out when manager Jerry Manuel and the team trainer went to the mound, but his exit didn't immediately help the Dodgers, who'd won on Saturday scoring only three runs.

"What did we have, nine runs in five games or some crazy thing like that?" Torre said. "It's something I don't really look forward to, trying to win every game like that."

The Dodgers had just two hits through seven innings, a Matt Kemp leadoff single in the second and an Andre Ethier opposite-field double in the fifth. Ethier advanced to third with one out on a wild pitch but was stranded.

The only hit Kershaw allowed before Jeff Francoeur's two-out single in the fifth inning came on Wright's double in the first. Wright had new life in that at-bat, as home-plate umpire Dana DeMuth determined that what appeared to be a swinging strike three was a foul tip.

Kershaw worked around doubles in the sixth and seventh innings, the former particularly unfortunate for the Mets, because Kershaw picked off Jose Reyes before Luis Castillo's two-bagger.

"I've always had a pickoff move. I've tried so many different things," Kershaw said. "It's really not a matter of me having a good one, it's a matter of them stealing on me and me just happening to pick them off."

Though Kershaw was at 112 pitches, Torre was prepared to send him out for the ninth if the score was tied, though he preferred to keep the pitch count below 120. And after Jansen made a two-strikeout debut through the heart of the Mets lineup on Saturday, Torre was convinced the kid could close out this one. Jonathan Broxton was available, but Torre wanted to stay away from him because he had a stomach ailment earlier in the week.

"[Jansen] yesterday pretty much made up my mind," Torre said.

Jansen fell behind leadoff hitter Carlos Beltran, 3-1, before inducing a pop out and getting swinging strikeouts of Jason Bay and Ike Davis to end the game. He threw 15 pitches, eight for strikes.

"After falling behind, I just took a deep breath," said Jansen, who explained that he wears No. 74 because it's the number of his parents' home. "It's just amazing, man. It's just like a dream come true for me again. I don't try to put pressure at all on myself. I just go out there, stay focused and try to have fun."

Jansen's first save resulted in 10 wins for Kershaw -- the first time he has reached the mark. The two 22-year-olds have come along way since Jansen was catching Kershaw in rookie ball.

"I was just telling these guys -- he's the first catcher I ever threw to when I got drafted," Jansen said. "He had an incredible arm back then. I'm really happy for him."

Added Kershaw: "He's a great guy, showed a lot of ... whatever you want to say, to go out there in the ninth inning and close it down."

Evan Drellich is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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