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NYM@LAD: Johan hurls eight scoreless for sixth win

For both the Mets and Dodgers, who open a three-game weekend series on Friday in New York, maybe time off wasn't the answer.

New York stumbled into last week's All-Star break with a series loss to the Chicago Cubs -- a disappointing close after the team won two of three against Philadelphia earlier in the week.

The Dodgers' situation wasn't much prettier -- Los Angeles lost three of four to Arizona in the days leading up to the Midsummer Classic.

But if time off to rest and regroup was supposed to help right the ship, it definitely isn't working.

New York lost its first four games since the second half of the season started last Friday, including a sweep at the hands of National League East-rival Atlanta. The Mets have blown three late-game leads, two of which came on Tuesday night in both the ninth and 10th innings against Washington.

"There are two options," third baseman David Wright said after Tuesday's 5-4 loss. "Either we stick with it and keep going out there and grinding away like we've done all year, [or we] fold up shop and go through the motions. Hopefully we choose the first."

The All-Star break hasn't seemed to have helped the Dodgers, either, who have lost four of six since returning to action.

The Mets did take three of four in Los Angeles at the end of June, but the Dodgers were without both Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp.

Aaron Harang will take the mound on Friday for Los Angeles, which begins a road trip with 10 games in 10 days. On June 29 against the Mets, Harang allowed five runs -- four earned -- in 5 2/3 innings in what would ultimately be a 9-0 New York victory.

Johan Santana gets the nod for the Mets. Over his last two starts, Santana has allowed a combined 13 earned runs but previously shut out the Dodgers in a three-hit, eight-inning effort on June 30.

Dodgers: Guerra back
Reliever Javy Guerra, who had been on the bereavement list since Saturday after his father suffered a heart attack, was reinstated and rejoined the Dodgers on Wednesday. Los Angeles optioned Stephen Fife back to Triple-A Albuquerque.

Guerra, who on Wednesday was upbeat about his father's condition, will provide much-needed relief to an overworked and struggling Dodgers bullpen.

Fife returns to the Minors after making his Major League debut on Tuesday. He allowed one run on four hits in six innings.

"I thought he was good," manager Don Mattingly said. "We couldn't have really asked for much more."

Mets: Bullpen needs help
General manager Sandy Alderson told reporters on Tuesday that his focus is to acquire help for the club's 30th-ranked bullpen in advance of the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.

"That's the No. 1 priority," Alderson said. "We've looked at other things. Other things could develop. But we're focused on a long-term plan with the recognition that 2012 is very important, and we want to be as competitive as we can possibly be. Hopefully we don't have to compromise the vision."

Alderson said that the team has assigned all of its Major League scouts to cover big league clubs this week, rather than check out prospects in the Minors.

"So if that's any evidence of our point of view, our state of mind, we are buyers," Alderson said. "Right now, we're buyers."

Worth noting
• In five post-All-Star break games, Kemp has picked up right where he left off before landing on the disabled list with a recurring hamstring injury. In the five games, Kemp has seven hits -- including a three-hit performance against San Diego on Saturday and a two-run walk-off homer against the Phillies on Wednesday.

• Miguel Batista will start for the Mets on Saturday over Matt Harvey, the Mets' second-ranked prospect.

"We want to make sure that when he starts his Major League career, it's an auspicious start," Alderson said. "He's knocking on the door. We can hear him. But we thought this was the best decision."

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