NEW YORK -- After the Dodgers were contained by Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee in their previous two games, the third time against a former Cy Young Award winner was the charm. The club started a 10-game trip on Friday night by chasing Johan Santana and holding on for a 7-6 win over the Mets.
Matt Kemp and Luis Cruz slugged two-run homers early off Santana, who held the Dodgers scoreless over eight innings three weeks ago. Aaron Harang battled through five innings and five relievers got the Dodgers to the finish line, with Kenley Jansen picking up his 17th save while shaking off the nightmarish gaffe of a steal of home against him from the last homestand.
"That's history -- a long time ago," said Jansen, who overcame a throwing error by Jerry Hairston by striking out Justin Turner and inducing a popout from Andres Torres to secure the victory for Harang. "I'm not worried about it anymore."
While the Dodgers wait to learn if trade target Ryan Dempster of the Cubs will join their starting rotation, they can only hope that potential deal works out as well as the ones they struck over the winter, when general manager Ned Colletti took the salary that would've been required to keep Hiroki Kuroda in Los Angeles and instead signed Harang and Chris Capuano. Kuroda is 9-7 with the Yankees. Harang is now 7-5 and Capuano, who will start on Saturday, is 9-5.
"I just grinded it out the last few innings," said Harang, who allowed three runs -- two of them unearned due to Hairston's first-inning fielding error -- but walked three and threw 108 pitches in five innings.
It was a battle for Harang, but he was better than Santana, who is 3-5 with a 6.54 ERA since his June 1 no-hitter and could be headed to the disabled list for rest.
"I'm OK; I'm just not able to execute the pitches the way I'm supposed to," Santana said. "I don't feel my best right now, but at the same time, I'm not trying to find any excuse or anything. I'm not executing my pitches. I'm not commanding my fastball, and I get behind in the count. When I try to throw strikes, I'm getting hurt. That's not the way I pitch."
Giving up a homer to Kemp, who led the National League with 39 last year, is one thing, but Santana allowed the first Major League home run of Cruz's career in the third inning following Hairston's infield single, replenishing the Dodgers' lead to 6-2.
"Today is a big day for me," said Cruz, a journeyman who is replacing the injured Dee Gordon as the Dodgers' starting shortstop. "The last three games, we're facing very good guys -- Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay the day before that. I'm just very happy I could help us win the game."
A lot went right for the Dodgers to win this game, including what manager Don Mattingly said was a blown hit-and-run play with one out in the seventh inning that resulted in a rare steal of second by Andre Ethier, who had walked.
Juan Rivera took a pitch when he was supposed to swing. The luck continued as second-base umpire Jim Joyce called Ethier safe, over the protest of Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy, who argued that he tagged Ethier. Murphy had four hits.
Rivera followed with a single to center, Ethier beating Torres' wide throw but sliding past the plate, the ball eluding catcher Josh Thole and allowing Ethier to scramble back to touch home. That gave the Dodgers a 7-4 lead and proved the decisive run, as Mets rookie Jordany Valdespin slugged his fourth pinch-hit homer of the season in the bottom of the seventh off Shawn Tolleson to cut the lead to one run.
"It's nice to get the offense going early," said Ethier, who followed Kemp's first-inning homer with a double and scored on Hairston's RBI single. "We just have to find a way to put them away instead of letting them get back in the game at the end."
As for the "steal," his second of the year, Ethier either didn't want to expose Rivera's mistake or has a high opinion of his running speed.
"I was going," Ethier insisted. "I felt like going in that situation. I had the green light. My legs were feeling good after the day off yesterday."
Kemp, who hit a walk-off home run on Wednesday, homered in a three-run first inning and said afterward he is gaining confidence that he's healed from the strained left hamstring that sidelined him for the better part of two months.
"I feel like I've got my legs under me," Kemp said. "A couple balls I missed in L.A., but I feel I'm getting it back. I feel good at the plate. My leg feels really good. They weren't heavy tonight. I feel like my normal self."
There's nothing wrong with the bat. In six games since returning from the disabled list, Kemp is 10-for-27 (.370) with two homers and five RBIs.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.