Latos, bullpen outshine Santana in Game 1

Latos, bullpen outshine Santana in Game 1

NEW YORK -- Closer Heath Bell was concerned about his fellow relievers teasing him for his performance in the first game of the Padres' day-night doubleheader Thursday against the Mets.

Not because he blew a save, or even because he had to be pulled for ineffectiveness.

Instead, Luke Gregerson and Mike Adams were so dominant in their seventh and eighth inning appearances, respectively, that Bell's 1-2-3, ho-hum ninth inning to close out a 4-2 win paled in comparison.

"They're probably going to make fun of me because I didn't strike anybody out," Bell said. "It's amazing to watch Mike Adams and Luke Gregerson pitch. I feel like I never do as well as them because they go 1-2-3 all the time."

The bullpen's effort was the exclamation point on Mat Latos' fantastic start, in which he allowed two runs on two hits in six innings, striking out eight and retiring the last 13 batters he faced.

The 6-foot-6 right-hander made one costly mistake to Henry Blanco in the second inning before settling in and outdueling Mets ace Johan Santana.

Latos left a fastball high and over the middle of the zone, and Blanco, the Mets' No. 8 hitter, deposited it in the first row of the left-field stands to give New York an early 2-0 lead.

It was the last hit and baserunner the Mets were able to muster.

"There's nothing I can do about [the home run] so I might as well just go out there and make sure they don't get anymore," Latos said. "And I feel we have the best 7-8-9 combination in the Major Leagues right now."

Latos improved to 5-2 with a 2.08 ERA over his last eight starts, since the Marlins hammered him for seven runs in 2 2/3 innings on April 26.

Padres manager Bud Black said Latos located all of his pitches for strikes and could have pitched deeper into the game, but Black felt it would be better to limit the 22-year-old and give his bullpen a fresh inning to work in the seventh.

"We want to win games. With that, I think it's always in the back of my mind where he's headed as we move deeper in the schedule," Black said. "A lot of it is sort of a game-by-game feel of how he's doing."

The Padres bullpen passed the baton flawlessly as Gregerson struck out Ike Davis, David Wright and Jeff Francoeur in order in the seventh, and Adams worked a perfect eighth in which he retired two left-handed pinch-hitters before handing off the two-run lead to Bell.

"I'll take this bullpen in any situation, any day," Gregerson said. "Everyone knows their role and is ready to go when it's their time to come in."

Bell recorded his 17th save of the season, and it was only the second time he has saved a game in three-up, three-down fashion.

The closer might have been the only known entity coming into this season, but the entire bullpen is garnering attention for a team that was not expected to contend for the National League West lead in 2010.

"They're doing the job. I guarantee you before the season started, nobody knew who they were. But they're making a name for themselves," said the Mets' Alex Cora, who went 0-for-3.

The Padres (35-24) won a game started by Santana for the second time this month, though Thursday's win over the Mets (31-28) came in a much different fashion than the game in San Diego on June 2.

A walk-off grand slam from Adrian Gonzalez in the 11th inning completed a 5-1 come-from-behind win after Santana blanked the Padres for seven innings at PETCO Park. This time, the Padres recorded eight hits and four runs before chasing Santana after 6 2/3.

A rare lack of control -- four walks -- helped undo the left-hander.

"I think that's atypical of Johan," Black said. "He's a guy who throws a ton of strikes. It looks like today, at certain parts of the game, he lost his command."

Kyle Maistri is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.