LOS ANGELES -- The connection between New York Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez and manager Terry Collins goes back to 1999, when Collins was in his third and final season as manager of the Angels and Rodriguez was in his first year of pro ball.
Rodriguez eventually succeeded Troy Percival as the Angels' closer. But before that happened, Percival insisted Rodriguez pose with him for a photo at his locker in Anaheim after the four-time All-Star recorded his 300th career save.
K-Rod had just nine big league saves when the picture was taken on July 28, 2004. On Wednesday night, he closed out the Mets' 5-3 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers for career save No. 290.
"I was discussing that with my family the other night, when Percy pulled me aside for that picture," Rodriguez said. "My brother asked me if I'm going to do the same thing when I get it. And I said I would love to. It seemed to me that that was just yesterday. And now seven years later, I'm about to accomplish something really special."
Rodriguez started off the ninth by striking out Matt Kemp. He then gave up a single to Juan Uribe before retiring James Loney on a fielder's choice grounder and tagging out Eugenio Velez on a dribbler up the line for his 22nd save of the season.
"I have all the trust in the world in K-Rod," Collins said. "I mean, he gives up runs at times, but for the most part, when it's crunch time, he gets the job done. He's not afraid to throw strikes and go after hitters."
Rodriguez has been the subject of recent trade speculation, with the non-roster deadline approaching on July 31. So the question is, will he get No. 300 in a Mets uniform?
"I would say yes," Collins said. "I have no reason to doubt that he'd get it anyplace else. I would say he'll get it here. I'm hoping he gets it in the next two weeks."
Rodriguez said: "I'm here, so that's what I'm thinking -- unless something happens. Rumors are something I can't control. As long as I'm wearing this uniform, I'm still here. And until somebody pulls me into the office and says that I'm going to go somewhere else, I'm not going to believe anything until it really happens."
New York (45-42) is three games over .500 for the first time July 23, 2010.
"We started really bad, and it was a little frustrating," Rodriguez said. "But now that we're playing at the level that we're supposed to be playing, everything is a lot easier and a lot of fun for us. Hopefully, in the next month we'll have all our horses coming back and they'll make this ballclub even better."
Jonathon Niese (8-7) allowed three runs and five hits over seven innings, improving to 8-4 over his past 14 starts. The left-hander has won a career-best four straight outings on the road.
Hiroki Kuroda (6-10) gave up four runs and eight hits over six innings for Los Angeles, dropping to 1-5 with a 5.75 ERA in seven career starts against the Mets. It was the 36-year-old right-hander's 100th major league start after 11 seasons with Hiroshima of the Japanese Central League.
Los Angeles has lost five straight, tying a season high, and is 14 games under .500 for the first time since the end of the 2005 season. It is last in the NL West.
"Right now it's a little embarrassing because our team is better than last place," Kemp said. "We should definitely be in the hunt for one of the best records in the National League West. I think we're all disappointed in ourselves at this moment. But we need to stop making excuses, keep playing the game and turn this thing around."
New York scored three times in the sixth to take a 4-1 lead. Beltran led off with his second double, advanced to third on a throwing error by left fielder Velez after he caught Daniel Murphy's fly ball, and scored when Kuroda bounced a pitch in the dirt off A.J. Ellis' chest protector. Lucas Duda and Josh Thole followed with two-out singles, and Tejada drove both of them in with a double to right-center after Kuroda was visited by pitching coach Rick Honeycutt.
The Dodgers responded with two runs in the bottom half, capitalizing on a blown call by first-base umpire Greg Gibson. Andre Ethier hit an opposite-field RBI single through the left side and Kemp followed with what appeared to be a tailor-made double-play grounder to shortstop. But Gibson ruled Kemp beat the relay, bringing Collins out of the dugout for a brief argument.
Television replays showed Gibson got it wrong. Jamey Carroll took third on the fielder's choice grounder and scored on Juan Uribe's sacrifice fly -- which would have been the third out.
The Mets tacked on another run in the ninth on Justin Turner's two-out RBI single. They have scored 166 runs with two out, second in the majors to Boston's 170.
Beltran misplayed Carroll's single down the line in the first inning, and Carroll ended up at second after initially being held up by coach Davey Lopes. That ended a 179-game errorless streak by Beltran, a three-time Gold Glove winner whose previous error also came at Dodger Stadium on May 5, 2009.
The Dodgers are 19-27 at Chavez Ravine, with four games left on a homestand that leads into the All-Star break. It will be the first time they've had a losing record at home at the break since 1999 (22-23). ... Thursday's series finale will match Clayton Kershaw against Dillon Gee, who teamed up with relievers Mike O'Connor and Tim Byrdak to end Ethier's 30-game hitting streak on May 7 at New York.
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