Padres 4, Mets 2
NEW YORK (AP)
Bud Black strolled into the clubhouse and did a mini-dance to the Latin beat, sashaying his hips side to side the best way he knew how.
The manager of the surprising San Diego Padres has plenty of reason to cut a rug these days: Boasting the best ERA in the majors, his impressive pitching staff has been in a smooth groove all season.
``We have a great TEAM,'' closer Heath Bell said. ``You put us individually, we might not be the best guys out there. But you put us together, and we're solid.''
Latos and three San Diego relievers combined to retire the final 22 Mets batters after Henry Blanco's two-run homer in the second inning, one of New York's season-low two hits. Jose Reyes opened the game with an infield single.
The lack of run support was nothing new for Santana (4-3), who pitched 15 shutout innings over his previous two starts without getting a decision. This time, he squandered a two-run lead and took the loss.
``There's not much I can do,'' Santana said. ``I just have to pitch my game. I know that sooner or later the offense is going to pick up.''
It was New York's fifth defeat in the past 24 games at Citi Field.
``Honestly, before about 10 minutes ago I thought we were about to get going again,'' Padres reliever Luke Gregerson said. ``I didn't know we were going to have to wait 3 hours.''
The 22-year-old Latos (6-4) allowed only two hits in six innings and struck out eight. The right-hander set down his last 13 batters, improving to 5-1 with a 1.96 ERA and 47 strikeouts in his last seven starts.
``He's got great stuff. He's got just as good stuff as anybody in the league,'' Gonzalez said. ``When you execute your pitches with that kind of stuff you're going to have success.''
Then, the Padres turned to their dominant bullpen. Gregerson fanned all three batters in the seventh, Mike Adams worked a perfect eighth and Bell, an ex-Met, pitched the ninth for his 17th save in 20 chances.
``When the season started nobody knew who they were, but they are really doing the job,'' New York infielder Alex Cora said.
Pitching on seven days' rest after tossing seven scoreless innings June 2 at San Diego, Santana looked rusty. He walked No. 8 batter Tony Gwynn Jr. to start the fifth and, after Latos struck out trying to bunt, Eckstein lined an RBI double to left that tied it at 2.
One out later, Gonzalez came up with first base open - but the Mets made a curious decision and pitched to him anyway. The slugger hit a humpback liner over second for a run-scoring single that put the Padres ahead 3-2.
``I didn't think he had hit me hard and I was just trying to make a pitch,'' Santana said. ``I thought I could get him out.''
Santana induced his third double-play grounder in the seventh, but couldn't get through the inning. Eckstein walked and scored from first when Headley doubled to deep right, chasing the two-time Cy Young Award winner.
``It is weird. I didn't have command of my fastball at all. It was a battle all day to keep the ball down,'' Santana said.
In the second, Blanco homered into the front row of left-field seats on the 10th pitch of his first at-bat in eight days. The backup catcher has been bothered by a sore neck.
San Diego loaded the bases with none out in the fourth on Gonzalez's leadoff single and consecutive walks. Jerry Hairston Jr. hit a sacrifice fly, ending Santana's scoreless streak at 18 2-3 innings.
NOTES: Gonzalez is batting .459 with four homers and 12 RBIs in his past nine games. ... Jesus Feliciano struck out as a pinch-hitter in the eighth for New York, his major league debut after 13 years in the minors.