Padres 3, Expos 0

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SAN DIEGO (AP)—Petco Park was blanketed in a heavy fog by the sixth inning and so was Montreal’s anemic offense, thanks to another strong game by Ismael Valdez.

Valdez limited Montreal to four hits in eight innings and Mark Loretta homered to lead the San Diego Padres to a 3-0 victory over the Expos on Tuesday night.

Valdez (3-0) has the best record of any Padres starter after coming within three outs of his first shutout in nearly five years. He began the season in the bullpen, then moved into the rotation after No. 5 starter Sterling Hitchcock was diagnosed with a broken rib.

“I felt pretty good,” said Valdez, who retired nine straight batters at one point and lowered his ERA to 2.42.

“I’m very fortunate to be 3-0 right now but it doesn’t mean anything. It’s a combination of run support, good defense and making my pitches. It’s not just me, it’s the whole team.”

Valdez hasn’t thrown a shutout since 1999 while with the Los Angeles Dodgers, against the Chicago Cubs. He came close in 2002 before losing a shutout on a balk in the ninth inning against Cincinnati, while with Texas. Last year, he threw eight scoreless innings against Anaheim.

A heavy fog started blowing in during the sixth. By then the Padres were up 3-0.

“Whoa. I never saw anything like that,” Valdez said. “I was kind of getting nervous. I couldn’t see it from the bench. I couldn’t even see it from the mound. I don’t know how these guys can see it from the outfield. I’m very glad everything worked out.”

Valdez struck out two, walked none and didn’t allow a baserunner past second.

“He’s technically the fifth starter, but he’s been a front-line pitcher for us,” Loretta said. “He’s given us quality innings every time out. He works quickly and keeps the fielders on their toes. He uses his defense, and it’s great to play behind a guy like that.”

Trevor Hoffman pitched a perfect ninth for his fourth save in five chances.

Montreal came in batting just .205 with 36 runs scored, the worst in the major leagues. It was the sixth time the Expos have been shut out this season in 21 games.

Montreal starter John Patterson left in the sixth inning with a torn right groin muscle. He was hurt on his second pitch to Miguel Ojeda with two on and two outs. Manager Frank Robinson and the trainer came out to the mound, and Patterson was replaced by Sun-woo Kim. Kim walked Ojeda to load the bases, then got rookie Khalil Greene to fly out to right.

“He gives up three runs and he has no chance,” a frustrated Robinson said of Patterson, who allowed seven hits and struck out eight, with one walk. “What can you ask a pitcher to do? What more can they do?”

Patterson is expected to be out for at least three to four weeks.

“When I threw the first pitch to Ojeda it pulled a little bit,” Patterson said. “It just felt like it kind of tightened up and then I just let go on the next pitch. My backside just collapsed.”

Loretta hit a two-run homer onto the second-floor balcony of the Western Metal Supply Co. Building just beyond the left-field fence in the first inning, his fourth. Sean Burroughs was aboard on a leadoff single.

Ojeda, who had the game-winning single in the ninth inning of Monday night’s3-2 win, hit an RBI single in the fourth.

Notes

At 12-9, the Padres are three games over .500 for the first time since May 5, 2002, when they were 17-14. … Padres 3B-leadoff hitter Burroughs was back in the lineup after missing the last two games with a sprained ankle. … INF Jeff Cirillo, who broke his right index finger late in spring training, will begin a rehab assignment, likely with Class-A Lake Elsinore, when thePadres go back on the road next week.

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