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Jeremy Hefner helps Mets beat Padres, 6-2

Mike Baxter tosses his bat as he heads

Mike Baxter tosses his bat as he heads to first base with his fourth consecutive walk during the seventh inning. (Aug. 4, 2012) Credit: AP

SAN DIEGO -- Mets manager Terry Collins acknowledged before Saturday night's game that Jeremy Hefner likely was making his last big-league start for a while. With Johan Santana due back next Saturday, Hefner will be ticketed for the bullpen or even Triple-A Buffalo.

At least Hefner will have gone out with a positive performance that Collins can keep in his memory bank. The righthander allowed one run in six innings as the Mets beat the Padres, 6-2, at PETCO Park.

"I hope he knows that I'm going to compete and give him 100 percent every time," Hefner said. "Regardless of what happens with Johan coming off the DL and stuff, I'm here for the team. Johan's a way better pitcher than I am, so if it comes down to that, we'll see what happens."

Said Collins: "Jeremy's pitched very well. If we need a [spot] start, he's got it."

Mike Baxter walked in each of his five plate appearances, setting a Mets record for a nine-inning game. Vince Coleman walked five times in a 16-inning game against the Pirates on Aug. 10, 1992.

"Kind of a strange night," Baxter said. "I'll take a walk any day."

Frank Francisco picked up his 19th save in his first appearance since coming off the disabled list. After Chase Headley homered off Bobby Parnell to bring the Padres within 6-2 in the ninth, Francisco came in with runners on first and second and one out and threw two pitches, getting John Baker to ground into a game-ending double play.

Collins initially had said he wanted to use Francisco in this game no matter what. But afterward he said he didn't want to use Francisco unless it was a save situation because the closer has been dealing with a lat strain. Francisco said he felt "great" on the mound.

Hefner (2-4) was effective and economical. The 26-year-old rookie, who was drafted in the fifth round by the Padres in 2007, threw only 72 pitches (48 strikes). He allowed five hits, walked none and struck out two before being removed for a pinch hitter.

Padres starter Edinson Volquez was neither effective nor economical. After a 1-2-3 first inning, Volquez lost the plate in the second. He walked four Mets, including Josh Thole and Ruben Tejada with the bases loaded, and was pulled after Jordany Valdespin's two-out, two-run double gave the Mets a 4-0 lead.

Valdespin, who got the start in leftfield over Jason Bay, lined a two-run double down the rightfield line to give the Mets a 4-0 lead. He has 25 RBIs in 123 at-bats. Bay has 10 in 128.

Volquez (7-8) was charged with four runs in 12/3 innings. He allowed two hits, walked four and struck out three, throwing 25 strikes and 29 balls.

The Padres made it 4-1 in the third on Alexi Amarista's RBI single.

The Mets had multiple opportunities to add to their lead. They left two runners on in the third, left the bases loaded in the fifth and stranded two more in the sixth.

They finally broke through with tack-on runs in the seventh (Thole's RBI groundout) and eighth (Davis' RBI single).

In the eighth, though, the Mets again left the bases loaded when Andres Torres (0-for-4, three strikeouts) grounded out.

Overall, they went 3-for-15 with runners in scoring position and stranded 13 baserunners.

"Once again, we're sitting there in the dugout looking in the ninth inning thinking we ought to have 10 runs," Collins said. "And we don't. We left way too many guys on base again."

Matt Harvey will make his third big-league start Sunday afternoonas the Mets close out this three-city, 11-game trip. They are 6-4 so far.

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