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Mets' Dickey beats Padres

The SportsXchange

NEW YORK -- Before the game, New York Mets fans honored the team's 50th anniversary with various slogans representing the past and present, in honor of the team's revival of the popular "Banner Day."

On the field, the current Mets continued to give fans a reason to recall the team's most popular team slogan of all: "Ya Gotta Believe."

The Mets continued their surprisingly strong start to the season, knocking off the San Diego Padres 2-0 on Sunday to move six games over .500 for the first time this year and take sole possession of second place in the NL East.

The Mets (27-21) won their third in a row against the Padres, after falling in the opener of the four-game series.

While playing the woeful Padres (17-32) might have helped, the Mets got another dominant start from R.A. Dickey, who pitched 7 1/3 scoreless innings and struck out 10 to move to 7-1. Tim Byrdak came on with two on and one out in the eighth, and got pinch-hitter Alexi Amarista on a liner to center, then struck out Will Venable to end the inning.

Frank Francisco pitched a perfect ninth for his 13th save of the season.

New York got just enough offense, with a pair of walks and an RBI single from Daniel Murphy helping the Mets take a 1-0 lead off Edinson Volquez (2-5) in the first, and a double by Mike Baxter, and a wild pitch and passed ball accounting for the other run in the fifth.

"We've always believed in ourselves," Dickey said. "Inside, all of us, to a man, think we're capable of winning ballgames. We're not delusional. We know there's a lot of baseball to be played."

The Mets' limited offense was enough to beat Volquez, who allowed the two runs on five hits in 5 2/3 innings. San Diego managed just three hits for the game, all against Dickey, and last scored in the first inning of Friday's game.

"Edinson hung in there, gave up two runs," Padres manager Bud Black said. "When you look at it, he gave himself a legitimate chance to win the game, by giving up two runs into the sixth. ... A lot of times that's a 'W,' but it wasn't today."

Dickey doffed his cap as he walked off the mound to a loud ovation with one out in the eighth, having struck out at least 10 batters for the second consecutive game, the first time in his career he had done so.

The knuckleballer -- the subject of many of the banners paraded around the warning track before the game for the first time since 1996 -- said he has found a zone in his last two starts. He's been able to mix speeds and the height of his knuckleball more, a dangerous weapon that Black mentioned as breaking from form of the traditional knuckleballer.

He's also been throwing strikes with it early, forcing hitters to swing as the knuckler "kept dancing," as Black said.

Dickey noted "it can be ruthless" when he's able to drop about 18 mph from pitch to pitch as he did when he struck out Jesus Guzman on a 60 mph knuckler in the fourth.

"I don't know how long it can last," Dickey said of the zone he's in, adding he's going to enjoy it as long as it does.

San Diego, which has sustained a multitude of injuries this season, was without the latest casualty, center fielder Cameron Maybin, who sprained his wrist in Saturday's game. Black said Maybin was feeling better, but was day to day.

While the Padres' rag-tag lineup continued to struggle offensively, good news was on the way. Black said before the game outfielder Carlos Quentin, who has been on the disabled list all season, might make his Padres debut and meet the team in Chicago to play the Cubs on Monday.

"You have a guy you pegged in the middle of the order," Black said. "He's a big piece. He's a guy that his track record tells you he's got power. It'll make the lineup look good."

The Padres entered the game with three position players batting under .200 and tried to push things at times, with Yonder Alonso getting thrown out trying to stretch a single in the first and Guzman trying to steal third after his double in the seventh.

Black said he's told his players to be aggressive because the struggling offense "can't sit back and wait."

NOTES: Mets shortstop Ronny Cedeno, who left Saturday's game with a right leg cramp, was not in the lineup Sunday. Justin Turner started in his place as manager Terry Collins said he wanted to be cautious. ... After Friday's "so-so" base running session for Ruben Tejada (strained right quad), he will not play in a rehab game Monday as the Mets had initially hoped, Collins said. He was instead scheduled to take batting practice and field grounders, but was not expected to run. ... Catcher Josh Thole (concussion) was scheduled to catch five innings in his first extended spring training game Monday in Port St. Lucie, Fla. ... Mets right-hander Chris Young (right shoulder surgery) was scheduled to start for Class AAA Buffalo on Tuesday in the next step of his rehab, after starting for Class A Port St. Lucie (Fla.). on Friday ... The Mets celebrated Collins' birthday by singing "Happy Birthday" their manager in the clubhouse. ... Left-hander Eric Stults had some swelling in his left triceps after getting struck by a batted ball in his last start Thursday. Black said he would decide in the next day or two if Stults could make his Tuesday start.
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