LOS ANGELES — The moment of truth for the New York Mets came in the eighth inning, when reliever Jim Henderson did what he was called on to do — pitch out of a jam with a two-run lead.
It helped Steven Matz win his fifth straight start.
Matz pitched six efficient innings, Curtis Granderson homered on the first pitch of the game, and Kevin Plawecki also went deep to lead the defending NL champions to a 4-2 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on May 9.
Henderson relieved Antonio Bastardo with one out and the tying runs on base in the eighth. He struck out Yasiel Puig after getting behind him 2-0, then got Thompson on a foul pop
“At that point, you want to attack him. You don’t want to load the bases and put the tying run at second,” Henderson said of the Puig at-bat. “The second pitch he fouled off was a ball, so I just lucky with that one. Then I just kept on challenging him with the fastball and it worked out.”
Manager Terry Collins is enjoying the way his late-inning relievers have been handling their roles.
“One of the things we try to get through to them is that your role is very simple — get the guy out who’s standing in the batter’s box, no matter who it is or what inning it is,” Collins said. “And our bullpen has been doing that.”
Matz (5-1) allowed two runs and six hits in six innings and struck out five in the opener of a four-game series, the teams’ first meeting since last year’s NL Division Series.
“It was one of those days where I didn’t have my best stuff and had to grind a little bit,” Matz said. “But I was still able to throw all my pitches and be able to mix them up, which helped me out. For me it’s just more of a focus, taking it pitch by pitch, not look ahead and just kind of being in the moment.”
Matz served up a two-run homer to Trayce Thompson in the fourth after he was staked to a 3-0 lead, but the left-hander helped himself out in the sixth with an RBI double inside third base that chased Scott Kazmir and made it 4-2.
Jeurys Familia got three outs for his 11th save in 11 chances.
Kazmir (2-3) gave up four runs and six hits in 5 2/3 innings. The nine-year veteran lefty was drafted 15th overall by the Mets in 2002 but never pitched a game for the big club before he was traded to Tampa Bay.
“He really paid for balls that he happened to leave in the middle of the plate,” Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis said. “They put some good swings on those pitches and got a couple of homers. So hopefully he will learn from those mistakes and we’ll get him back on the edges of the plate.”
Granderson got things underway with his 37th career leadoff homer, which landed in the pavilion seats in right-center. The Mets have outscored their opponents 24-5 in the first inning.
Puig continued his recent string of highlight-reel plays in the second with a sprinting backhanded grab of Juan Lagares’ sinking liner to right-center field. Two batters later, Plawecki hit his first homer of the season into the left-field pavilion.
It was the Mets’ major league-leading 49th homer. Their total is the highest through 31 games in franchise history. New York came in having scored 75 of its previous 133 runs on homers for a major league-best 56.4 percentage.
Yoenis Cespedes made it 3-0 with an RBI single in the third, but was doubled off second after left fielder Kike Hernandez made a running catch of Lagares’ bases-loaded blooper. It was Hernandez’ second assist of the inning.