Rafael Montero arrived in the majors with a reputation for fine control.
In a pair of starts against potent lineups, he hasn't hit his mark.
"I'm going to find out what he's trying to do. If he's trying to pitch to the corners, in this league you've got to earn that, you've got to earn the corners," New York Mets manager Terry Collins said.
"Once the umpire knows you'll pound that strike zone, he'll give you some stuff."
Adrian Gonzalez homered off Montero in his second consecutive three-hit game and Yasiel Puig reached base five times to lead the Los Angeles Dodgers over the skidding Mets 9-4 Tuesday night.
One of the team's top pitching prospects, Montero (0-2) has walked six and served up three home runs in 10 1-3 big league innings against the Dodgers and New York Yankees, who have the two highest payrolls in baseball.
"I'm not sure," Montero said through a translator. "I always try to throw strikes."
Gonzalez connected for a two-run shot in a four-run fifth, when Los Angeles chased the 23-year-old Montero. He threw only 53 of 97 pitches for strikes in 4 1-3 innings, giving up five runs and seven hits with four walks and four strikeouts.
"He fell behind a lot tonight," Collins said. "That's why he threw a lot of pitches. We've got to get him to realize he's good enough to get strike one and go from there."
Curtis Granderson (three hits) and Lucas Duda homered in the sixth for the Mets, who dropped to 5-13 in May with their fifth defeat in six games. Twice they loaded the bases with one out and came up empty in the opener of a nine-game homestand.
New York (20-24) fell a season-worst four games under .500 and lost for the 10th time in 11 meetings with the Dodgers dating to July 1, 2012.
The teams combined to use 12 pitchers in a yawner that took 4 hours, 8 minutes — a minute short of tying the Mets record for a nine-inning game.
"It seemed like we were on the field the majority of the game and that's not good," third baseman David Wright said.
Josh Beckett (2-1) helped himself with an RBI single in his second straight victory after 14 winless starts, but the fiery right-hander left frustrated after failing to get an out in the sixth.
Dodgers third baseman Juan Uribe limped off with a right hamstring injury after his ninth-inning double. Puig, who had three hits and scored twice to extend his recent tear at the plate, delivered an RBI single during a three-run ninth.
Puig drew a leadoff walk in the fifth and Gonzalez hit his 11th homer into the Dodgers' bullpen in right-center. Matt Kemp doubled and Carl Crawford's RBI single chased Montero. Uribe fisted a run-scoring single over a drawn-in infield against Jeurys Familia.
Trailing by four in the fifth, New York loaded the bases on three straight singles. Beckett escaped by striking out Daniel Murphy on a high fastball and getting Wright to ground out on a full-count pitch.
"I think it was a cutter and three curveballs," Wright said. "You're hoping that you get something you can drive and he just never gave in."
That dropped Wright to 1 for 21 against Beckett and 1 for 18 with two outs and runners in scoring position this season.
J.P. Howell struck out three in 1 1-3 scoreless innings and Chris Withrow retired Duda and Wilmer Flores with the bases loaded to preserve a 6-4 lead in the seventh.
Mets hitters are 6 for 40 (.150) with the sacks full this season.
"Everybody talks about situational hitting, and that is certainly one of the things this year that we have not done, drive those runs in in those situations," Collins said.
NOTES: Pitching at Citi Field for the first time, Beckett improved to 7-2 in 15 career starts against the Mets. It was the first time he faced them since 2009 with Boston. ... Mets CF Juan Lagares was home in the Dominican Republic because of a death in the family. The team chose not to put him on the bereavement list because Lagares is expected back in time for Wednesday night's game. ... C Travis d'Arnaud is still feeling the effects of a concussion and there is no timetable yet for his return, general manager Sandy Alderson said. ... RHP Dillon Gee (strained lat) wants to face hitters in a competitive situation before coming off the 15-day disabled list, Alderson said. Gee originally hoped to miss only two starts, but now it appears likely it will be at least three. ... RHP Jacob deGrom gets the ball for his second big league start Wednesday night after losing to the Yankees 1-0 in a sparkling debut last Thursday.