NEW YORK (AP) - Heath Bell spun around and pumped his fist after the final out, finishing off four hitless innings by the proud Padres bullpen.
“It was just nice to go out there and go 1-2-3,” Bell said. “It was more just for the whole bullpen. Like, there we go, we’re back on track.”
Cameron Maybin homered and stole two bases before scoring the tiebreaking run on an error by substitute shortstop Ruben Tejada, rallying San Diego past the New York Mets 3-2 on Thursday for a split of their four-game series.
Bell pitched a perfect ninth and the last-place Padres improved to 5-2 on a 10-game road trip that takes them to Cincinnati this weekend.
“We’re doing awesome,” Bell said. “The bullpen, if we hadn’t made mistakes on Monday and Tuesday we wouldn’t have lost on this road trip yet. So we’re feeling pretty good about ourselves.”
Lucas Duda hit a two-run double for the Mets, who managed only three hits and went 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position. New York finished 3-6 on a disappointing homestand and has lost eight of 11 overall.
With the Mets short on rested relievers, Jonathon Niese (11-9) matched his career high with 122 pitches. He outlasted Cory Luebke in a matchup of young left-handers from Ohio, but couldn’t hold an early 2-0 lead.
The score was tied in the eighth when Maybin hit a leadoff single and stole second on a pickoff throw to first. Duda’s toss was a bit late to Tejada, subbing for injured Jose Reyes, and the Mets didn’t get the call on a close play when Tejada tagged Maybin’s shoulder.
“I was just telling myself, I’ve got to make something happen,” Maybin said. “I got a good enough jump and was blessed with good enough speed to get in there.”
Niese, who pitched a one-hitter against San Diego at Citi Field last year for his only major league shutout, put his hands on his head, knowing he had a tough chore ahead.
After the game, Maybin said he was safe. Tejada thought he got him.
“That’s the name of the game, man. Sometimes you’ve got to try to force the issue a little bit and I was able to do so and it worked out,” Maybin said.
One out later, Jesus Guzman was intentionally walked and the runners pulled off a double steal as Kyle Blanks struck out. Aaron Cunningham hit a grounder wide of third and Tejada charged in, trying to scoop it on his forehand. But the ball kicked off the heel of his glove, allowing Maybin to score.
“You have to make that play,” Tejada said.
San Diego started the series with the best bullpen ERA in the majors. After coughing up late leads in each of the first two games, the relief corps closed this one out without much trouble.
“We could have easily swept these guys if we were on our A game on Monday and Tuesday, but unfortunately we weren’t,” Bell said. “We just felt really bad that we kind of let the guys down and we didn’t want that to happen again today. We were like men on missions. We were determined to have clean innings and keep people out and have no drama out there.”
Chad Qualls (6-6) worked a perfect seventh, Luke Gregerson pitched the eighth and Bell converted his 32nd save in 35 chances.
“Basically the first three games they always just kept fighting back, scratching and crawling, doing something. So it was nice to just keep ‘em out of it,” Qualls said. “To get back to the way we’ve all been throwing the ball is a good feeling.”
Maybin homered in the sixth and Cunningham lofted a double toward the right-field line to begin the seventh. A two-out single by No. 8 batter Luis Martinez tied it at 2.
“This team’s resilient,” Padres manager Bud Black said. “It’s a lot of young players now that I think are coming to the ballpark fresh and excited to start a new day.”
Luebke threw 109 pitches over five innings. He walked a career-high four and struck out eight, one shy of the career high he set in his previous outing at Pittsburgh.
The 21-year-old Tejada, who turned in a spectacular play Wednesday night, made a throwing error to begin the third. Moments later, he started a difficult double play.
“I’m going to talk to him in a little while because he’s the shortstop,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. “That’s why we brought him here, because we want him to play shortstop every day until Jose comes back, and he’s got to let this roll off his back. We’re going to turn to some older guys to make sure his mind’s in the right place.”
New York hitting coach Dave Hudgens was ejected by plate umpire Vic Carapazza for barking about balls and strikes from the dugout after Nick Evans was called out on strikes with the bases loaded to end the fifth.
NOTES: Padres 2B Orlando Hudson missed his second consecutive game with a strained right groin. Logan Forsythe started in his place. … Black rested SS Jason Bartlett, who grounded out as a pinch-hitter to end the seventh. … Wright singled in the fifth, establishing a Mets record with 2,048 career total bases. … New York CF Angel Pagan sat out after leaving Wednesday night’s loss because of a lower back spasm. Scott Hairston started in center, and batted leadoff for the first time this season. … The Mets have made 12 errors in their last nine games. … The teams meet again next week for a three-game series in San Diego.
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