NEW YORK -- The first pitch to Justin Turner was a slider in the dirt. The bases were loaded, the Mets were stuck in a tie game with one out in the eighth, and Turner felt lucky.
"I'd have bet the bank that he was going to throw a fastball there," Turner said. "It's just about being ready for it."
Turner was ready for it. He blasted Matt Guerrier's pitch to deep center field, where it glanced off Matt Kemp's outstretched glove and rolled toward the wall. Officially, the blast was a pinch-hit, two-run single for Turner, who nearly collided with Ronny Paulino after rounding first base. No matter. It gave the Mets a 4-2 victory over the Dodgers, their third straight, salvaging what could have been a misfortunate Saturday night at Citi Field.
"Sometimes," starting pitcher Dillon Gee said, "it's better to be lucky than good."
Gee knows. Informed roughly 20 minutes prior to first pitch that he was to start in place of the injured Chris Young, Gee battled his own lack of command throughout the early innings, twice loading the bases and twice escaping from those jams. In 5 1/3 innings, he allowed just two runs, those on Dioner Navarro's solo homer and Aaron Miles' RBI single. But he also gave up seven hits and three walks, leaving the Mets stuck in a tie game through six.
"We're better than this, I know that for sure," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "It's a matter of taking advantage of the situations."
"I don't know what it was, but tonight wasn't as good as the outcome," Gee said. "I got pretty lucky tonight."
Luck, it seems, was everywhere -- except upon Young's ailing right shoulder. The oft-injured right-hander will undergo an MRI on Sunday morning to determine whether he can continue to pitch or must serve a second stint on the disabled list.
Perhaps he'll cross his fingers for luck.
Pending his examination, Young watched Saturday's game from afar, with particular interest in the eighth-inning rally. After Jason Bay walked to open the inning, the Dodgers brought on left-hander Hong-Chih Kuo, who popped up Ike Davis for the first out of the inning.
Then came another bit of calculated luck. Knowing Kuo's success against left-handed batters, and aware of his reputation as a poor fielder, Mets manager Terry Collins instructed left-handed center fielder Jason Pridie to bunt. Pridie's drag attempt "wasn't the best bunt," in his own words, rolling directly toward Kuo on the mound. But the left-hander gloved it and threw high to first base, allowing Pridie to reach on an error.
That brought up pinch-hitter Paulino, who walked against a new pitcher, Guerrier, to load the bases. And then came Turner, looking for his fastball.
"One thing about Justin Turner, I feel confident he'll put the ball in play," Collins said. "It's not always going to be a hit. It's not always going to be a fly ball. But I knew he was going to put the ball in play, and I thought if he hit the ball to the outfield, we had a chance to score."
That is precisely what happened. Turner turned on Guerrier's heater, muscling it just over Kemp's head.
"Lucky for me," Turner said, "it hit off the tip of his glove."
Regardless of luck and regardless of skill, the Mets will take it. On a night in which they may have lost Young to a second stint on the disabled list, in fact, they'll most certainly take their third straight victory -- a collaborative effort if ever there was one.
There was Pridie, who finished with three hits and two runs, and Gee, who limited the damage against him and played a heavy role in halting Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier's hitting streak at 30 games.
There was Mike O'Connor, who retired two batters in his Mets debut, and Tim Byrdak, whose scoreless eighth inning earned him the win.
And there was closer Francisco Rodriguez as well, pitching for the third consecutive night to nail down the save.
"He's off the charts," Collins said. "The guy's amazing, he's just amazing. I told him so after the game. I said, 'You're incredible.'"
The Mets need those types of contributions to continue to win, to continue their slow march back toward .500. They need their makeshift lineup, rotation and bench to keep clicking. They need a little more "incredible."
And a little more luck certainly would not hurt.