The San Diego Padres hope their vaunted bullpen's recent struggles are just a blip on the radar screen.
San Diego will try to salvage a four-game split with the New York Mets as the teams wrap up their series Thursday at Citi Field.The Padres lost a pair of one-run games to New York before Wednesday's 9-5 win. The bullpen, led by All-Star closer Heath Bell, survived a bases-loaded situation in the ninth inning after giving up late leads in each of the first two games."It was a shocker and we were just like, there's no way how it's going to happen three nights in a row," Bell said. "We kind of figure we have to be really good. We've got to be on our 'A' game or we're not going to win."Padres relievers have been tagged for 10 runs and 14 hits in 6 2/3 innings against the Mets. They had allowed three runs and seven hits in eight innings during a sweep at Pittsburgh last weekend.Leadoff hitter Will Venable had a career-best four hits and scored three runs Wednesday to match a career high for San Diego (51-66), which is averaging more than nine runs through the first six games of its road trip -- a sharp rise from the 3.46 it had averaged the rest of the season.Josh Thole had four hits and Ruben Tejada added three Wednesday to equal career bests for the Mets (58-58). Tejada is 4 for 12 over three games in place of star shortstop Jose Reyes, currently on the 15-day disabled list with a hamstring injury."We're not built right now to overcome those big leads," said third baseman David Wright, hitting .355 with three homers and 18 RBIs in 18 games after missing more than two months with a stress fracture in his lower back.New York, 3-5 heading into the finale of its homestand, will face San Diego's Cory Luebke (4-6, 3.06 ERA), who tries to build off the best start of his rookie season.The left-hander struck out a career-high nine while giving up one run and five hits over seven innings of Saturday's 13-2 win over the Pirates. He also had two hits and scored a run.Luebke, who's pitched past the seventh inning only once in eight starts, will make his first appearance against the Mets.He'll be opposed by New York's Jonathon Niese (11-8, 4.12), who would surely like to duplicate his previous start against San Diego.The left-hander pitched a one-hitter with six strikeouts and no walks for his first career complete game in the Mets' 1-0 home win June 10, 2010. Chris Denorfia was the Padres' lone baserunner with a third-inning double.Niese has won two of his last three starts overall, including an 11-7 victory over Atlanta on Saturday in which he gave up five runs and 10 hits over five innings.New York center fielder Angel Pagan, who had solo homers in the first two games of this series, left Wednesday with lower back spasms and could miss this contest.San Diego second baseman Orlando Hudson sat out Wednesday with a strained groin and is not expected to play Thursday."We're going to hang onto him here for a few days. Hopefully this resolves itself and we don't have to make a move," manager Bud Black said.Hudson has already been on the DL twice this year with groin and hamstring injuries.