NEW YORK -- Johan Santana is struggling so much that the New York Mets think he might need a break.
Matt Kemp homered early and the Los Angeles Dodgers became the latest team to hammer Santana before holding off the Mets 7-6 on Friday night.
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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.
"That no-hitter stuff was a long time ago," Santana said. "I'm OK, just not able to execute. I feel OK. I don't feel my best right now."
Mets manager Terry Collins said the team would discuss options with Santana about how to get some "energy" back in his arm, and a stint on the disabled list is a possibility.
"He's not hurt," Collins said. "We're going to talk about some alternatives as soon as I'm done in here. Skipping a start, backing him up some -- those are some of things we are going to discuss.
"He just hasn't responded," the manager added. "It's a command issue. He's not making the pitches."
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 to back 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.
Ronald Belisario threw a called third strike past David Wright with a runner on to end the eighth, and 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.
"I can't explain it. He goes up and takes a big swing," Collins said.
Daniel Murphy had a season-high four hits for New York, including two doubles. The Mets, who snapped a six-game skid Thursday in Washington to salvage the final game of a 1-5 road trip, have lost eight of 11.
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.
"We know what Johan's capable of. We hopped out on him early, worked counts and got good pitches to hit and kind of made him pay for his mistakes," Kemp said. "Usually he's hitting spots and his stuff is a little bit better. I just think he was a little off today."
Santana walked three batters with two outs in the second, and Andre 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.
Santana threw 72 pitches in three innings. The 33-year-old lefty 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.
"I'm just going through a tough time. I'm not on top of my game right now," Santana said. "After everything I've been through, I'm very happy to take the mound every five days. I just have to keep working, battling, competing."
New York will recall RHP Jeremy Hefner from Triple-A Buffalo before Saturday's game. Collins said R.A. Dickey could be used in relief. ... 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's been out since June 23. ... Hairston made a tough play at third base to deny his brother, Scott, a leadoff single in the eighth.