Josh Beckett's victory in his last start was a long time in the making.
The turnaround for his next one might be considerably shorter if he's able to contain the struggling New York Mets on Tuesday night as the Los Angeles Dodgers open a three-game series at Citi Field and try to avoid falling to .500 for the first time this season.
Prior to last Tuesday's 7-1 home win over Miami in which the right-hander allowed an unearned run on four hits in 6 1-3 innings, Beckett (1-1, 2.38 ERA) hadn't won in 14 starts since Sept. 30, 2012. He has a 1.67 ERA in his last six outings, and he's crediting that success to catcher A.J. Ellis urging him to mix in his curveball more frequently.
"Instead of throttling up a fastball, I can throttle back with a curve," Beckett told the team's official website. "I've always had a good curveball, but never a good feel for it, never for strike one. But I threw it (Tuesday eight times on the first pitch).
"Guys don't hit it, maybe because it's dying anyway, nobody throws it, and hitters don't see them often. And A.J. said a 70-mph curve makes that 90-93-mph fastball look faster."
He hasn't faced the Mets since 2009 and is 6-2 with a 2.27 ERA in 14 matchups. David Wright is 1 for 18 against him.
Beckett will be opposed by Rafael Montero, who is hoping for a strong outing to preserve his spot in the rotation as Dillon Gee works his way toward a return.
Montero, one of the Mets' top pitching prospects, lost 4-0 to the New York Yankees in his major league debut Wednesday. The right-hander surrendered three runs on five hits in six innings and was stung by a pair of home runs.
"I was real proud of the way Raffy stayed in there," manager Terry Collins said. "A couple of home runs, but it should have been closer."
The Dodgers (23-22) have won nine of 10 against New York (20-23), a trend that could continue if the Mets don't pick it up offensively. They've hit .188 and scored 10 runs while losing four of five, and they're 5-12 in May.
In addition to the struggling offense, the Mets made a pair of errors in Sunday's 6-3 loss in Washington, one of which resulted in a two-run third inning for the Nationals.
"We can't make some of the mistakes that we're making," Collins said. "We've got to play solid baseball. We've certainly got to play crisper."
The Dodgers have also struggled lately, dropping six of their last eight series, including a three-game set in Arizona after Sunday's 5-3 defeat.
"Obviously, you don't want to keep losing series. If you lose series you are not going to go anywhere," manager Don Mattingly said. "I am really worried about day to day. Till we can grind out wins, we are in trouble."
Adrian Gonzalez went 3 for 4 with a two-run homer as the Dodgers continued to produce offensively. They've averaged 5.4 runs and gotten on base at a .369 clip in their last eight games, but it's resulted in a 4-4 record partly because of a 5.58 ERA. Los Angeles' 37 errors are among the most in the majors.
"I don't really have a reason for it," Gonzalez said. "A game we should have won but didn't. We could have played better in a lot of ways."
Mets left fielder Eric Young Jr. is 2 for 24 in his last six games, while second baseman Daniel Murphy has a 10-game hitting streak.
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