LOS ANGELES -- The last time the New York Mets visited Dodger Stadium, they were here for one game in October and completed a three-game sweep of the NL division series. This time, they were the ones who got swept.
Brad Penny pitched seven sharp innings and the Dodgers broke open a tight game with consecutive three-run innings against Jorge Sosa, beating the slumping Mets 9-1 on Wednesday night. The NL East leaders go home two games ahead of Atlanta and Philadelphia, but they hardly feel like a first-place team after losing five straight and nine of 10.
"Not right now. We should be very happy being where we're at," said Mets closer Billy Wagner, who gave up a two-run homer to James Loney in the eighth. "I'm sure Omar (Minaya) didn't put this team together expecting this type of play, and Fred Wilpon didn't shell out this type of money for us to go out there and play like this.
"We've caused a lot of our own problems. I mean, they played outstanding baseball, but we made them look better with our sloppy play and our lackadaisical efforts," Wagner added. "I don't think it's got anything to do with confidence. It's just about focus and desire. I mean, you've got to want it more than everybody else wants it."
Penny (8-1) gave up seven hits, struck out seven and walked none for the second consecutive start. The right-hander lowered his ERA to 2.18, second-best in the NL behind Jake Peavy's 1.82 mark for San Diego.
"I thought I threw the ball pretty well. I had no walks, so I'll take that every time," said Penny, who improved to 4-10 with a 5.82 ERA in 17 starts against the Mets. "That's a great lineup. It's probably one of the toughest lineups in baseball, so it was nice for this team to sweep them."
Wilson Betemit had a homer and an RBI single for the Dodgers. Rafael Furcal had two triples, one of which drove in a run. The three-game sweep was the club's first over the Mets in Los Angeles since August 1996. New York has four more games at Chavez Ravine coming up July 19-22.
"We played well this whole series," Dodgers catcher Russell Martin said. "We swung the bats well, pitched well and played good defense. That's what it takes to beat a team like the Mets."
New York, beaten 5-3 and 4-1 in the first two games of the series, has dropped four consecutive series for the first time since the final two months of the 2005 season, when it lost six straight series.
The Mets' current slide includes a three-game sweep by the Phillies at Shea Stadium. Only twice last season were the Mets swept in a three-game set -- both on the road, against Boston and Pittsburgh. Their longest losing streak in 2006 was four games, twice.
"It's a 162-game season. I mean, I'd love to play all year long the way we did at the start of the season, but it's not going to happen," said David Wright, who extended his hitting streak to 15 games with an RBI single in the first. "In reality, this is where the good teams become greater -- working their way out of these things."
The Mets, in the midst of a stretch against six consecutive teams that participated in the postseason last year, begin a three-game set at Yankee Stadium on Friday night. Oliver Perez will attempt to deny Roger Clemens his 350th career victory in the opener, and Tom Glavine will make his fifth attempt at his 296th win the following afternoon.
"I can't think of a better way to snap out of a team slump than going to Yankee Stadium with the kind of enthusiasm and excitement that surrounds the Subway Series, so I think it will be good for us," Wright said. "If you can't get hyped and get ready to play at Yankee Stadium, then you need to check your pulse."
Sosa (6-2) was charged with six runs and eight hits over 5 2-3 innings in his second career start against the Dodgers, including a no-decision with Atlanta on May 30, 2006. The right-hander retired 12 of his first 14 batters before Los Angeles pulled ahead 3-1 with three runs in the fifth, including Betemit's leadoff homer.
- All seven of the switch-hitting Betemit's home runs this season have come batting left-handed -- along with 18 of his 19 RBI. He has 81 at-bats from the left side and 22 from the right side.
- Wright, who came into this series with a four-game home run streak, has never homered in 65 career at-bats against the Dodgers.
- Furcal became the first Dodgers player to hit two triples in a game since Jason Repko on Sept. 26, 2005.