Dodgers-Mets Preview

The Associated Press

The Los Angeles Dodgers are still chasing the division lead, but at least they're back to their winning ways.

The New York Mets wish they were.

The Dodgers go for their first series sweep in Queens, N.Y., in nearly a decade Sunday when the Mets try to avoid falling below .500 for the first time in 2012.

Since losing seven of eight to relinquish the top spot in the NL West, the Dodgers (51-44) have reeled off three straight victories to keep pressure on division-leading San Francisco. Juan Uribe had a homer and four RBIs and Matt Kemp's third consecutive two-hit game powered Los Angeles to an 8-5 victory Saturday.

"It was a big day for (Uribe) and for us," manager Don Mattingly told the Dodgers' official website.

Los Angeles will give the ball to Nathan Eovaldi (1-6, 4.33 ERA) as it looks for its first sweep visiting the Mets since Aug. 16-18, 2002.

The 22-year-old right-hander allowed all three of his runs on two homers in Monday's 3-2 loss to Philadelphia. Eovaldi had yielded just three homers in his first eight starts after being called up in late May.

"You make mistakes, you get hit," Mattingly said. "... He's going to keep growing into a better pitcher."

The Dodgers haven't done much to support Eovaldi, plating 11 runs in his nine starts. The right-hander had no room for error in a 5-0 home loss to the Mets on June 30 when he allowed all five runs in 5 1-3 innings.

A.J. Ellis will likely be catching Eovaldi after missing the first two games of this series with a swollen left knee.

While Los Angeles tries to win four straight for the first time since sweeping the host Phillies from June 4-7, the Mets (47-47) are just looking to stay above the break-even mark and win for the second time in 10 games.

New York is .500 for the first time since it was 8-8 on April 23.

While there is plenty of time for the Mets to make a move in the NL East and wild-card races, the July 31 trade deadline makes this a critical stretch for team executives to determine if they want to make a move.

"Realistically, the next seven, eight, 10 games become important for us," general manager Sandy Alderson said Saturday.

Giving the Mets' bullpen a rest is also critical, as that group has logged six innings in each of the last two games and has a major league-worst 4.94 ERA after 13-game winner R.A. Dickey was tagged for a two-run shot by Uribe in the ninth inning Saturday.

"We've got to start getting some length out of our starters,'' manager Terry Collins said.

Scheduled starter Jonathon Niese (7-4, 3.58) has pitched at least six innings in eight consecutive outings, and the left-hander will make his first start against Los Angeles this season after going 1-0 with a 4.26 ERA in two starts in 2011.

Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy is batting .526 (10 for 19) off Dodgers pitching this season after his pinch-hit RBI triple Saturday.

Kemp is hitting .387 (12 for 31) with two homers and six RBIs in seven games since a stint on the disabled list with a hamstring injury. He has two hits in five at-bats off Niese.

Uribe, mired in a 1-for-38 slump before Saturday, is hitless in eight at-bats against the left-hander.

A win would give Los Angeles its first season series victory over New York since 2009.

What to Read Next