Santana shuts down Dodgers as Bay sparks Mets

NEW YORK -- Johan Santana and the New York Mets have pitched their way past a sluggish start.

Jason Bay hit his first home run for the Mets to back another stingy outing by Santana as New York beat the slumping Los Angeles Dodgers 4-0 in the opener of a doubleheader Tuesday for its fifth straight victory.

Santana (3-1) worked his way around early traffic on the bases, tossing six innings of four-hit ball to extend a run of splendid performances by the Mets' surprising rotation. New York starters are 5-1 with a 1.17 ERA in the last 12 games, leading the club to a 9-3 record following a 2-6 start.

"It's not just about me, it's about the whole pitching staff. They knew exactly how important they are for this team," Santana said. "Everybody feels very motivated, and it's good to see. And everybody's loose, relaxed and having fun -- and that's what this game is all about."

Luis Castillo hit a two-run single and New York pitched its second consecutive shutout, following Mike Pelfrey's 1-0 win Sunday night over the Atlanta Braves in a game that was called in the sixth inning because of rain.

More wet weather Monday night led to Tuesday's old-fashioned, single-admission, twinight doubleheader -- but few fans made it to blustery Citi Field in time for the first pitch at 4:10 p.m.

There were still sections of empty seats down low by the time David Wright dived headfirst to score on a second-inning wild pitch by Hiroki Kuroda (2-1).

A sparse crowd began filing in as the game wore on, but it was far from a full house as New York improved to 7-1 on its 10-game homestand.

"Even though we're here in New York, at some point it felt like we were down in Port St. Lucie playing a spring training game," Santana said. "But we knew it was a very meaningful game for us. And then as the game was going we got more into it and felt better. Just overall it was a crazy day, but it's still going."

As white napkins whipped around the outfield in the wind, Fernando Nieve worked two scoreless innings and Pedro Feliciano finished the five-hitter. With its fourth shutout of the season, New York tied the San Francisco Giants for the major league lead.

Including a 1-0 loss Sunday at Washington, Los Angeles was blanked in consecutive games for the first time since June 2008 at San Diego and Detroit.

Missing injured slugger Manny Ramirez, the Dodgers lost for the fourth time in five games. They have scored only five runs in their last four.

"We're not swinging the bats," manager Joe Torre said.

Santana threw 115 pitches while striking out six and walking three, all in the second inning. He has yielded one run or less in four of five starts this year -- and one run total is his last three outings covering 19 1/3 innings.

The left-hander improved to 3-0 with a 0.44 ERA in three career starts against the Dodgers. His fastball hovered mostly around 86-89 mph, but neither Santana nor manager Jerry Manuel sounded concerned by the drop in velocity.

"I don't know how much better he can be," Manuel said. "I think anytime it's cool, windy, I don't know if you see a guy's best velocity."

Oliver Perez started for the Mets against knuckleballer Charlie Haeger in the nightcap, a matchup of winless pitchers.

Wright drew a one-out walk in the second, went to third on Ike Davis' double and scored when Kuroda threw a wild pitch with the bases loaded.

"It stuck in my finger and it went down," Kuroda said through a translator.

Bay connected leading off the fourth, driving a 1-0 pitch over the 384-foot sign in left-center for his first home run since signing a $66 million, four-year contract with the Mets.

It took a while for Bay to break out the power bat that produced 36 home runs and 119 RBIs for the Boston Red Sox last season. His stretch of 108 at-bats without a homer, dating to Sept. 21 at Kansas City, was the longest of his career.

"It was great to see that. We were waiting for this for a while, and it's good to see him smiling," Santana said. "Hopefully, he takes off from here."

Castillo made it 4-0 in the seventh with a two-run single off Ramon Troncoso after fellow reliever Jon Link loaded the bases.

Game notes
Dodgers shortstop Rafael Furcal didn't start the second game after his hamstring tightened up while he was running to first on his double-play grounder that ended the seventh. ... Torre said injured right-hander Vicente Padilla won't throw for at least a week to 10 days and there is no timetable for his return. ... Santana's next start is scheduled for Sunday night at Philadelphia.