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Ruben Tejada, Cameron Maybin

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By MIKE FITZPATRICK   AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK (AP) _ Cameron Maybin homered and stole two bases
before scoring the tiebreaking run on an error by substitute
shortstop Ruben Tejada, rallying the San Diego Padres past the New
York Mets 3-2 on Thursday for a split of their four-game series.
Heath Bell pitched a perfect ninth and the last-place Padres
improved to 5-2 on a 10-game road trip that takes them to
Cincinnati this weekend.

Lucas Duda hit a two-run double for the Mets, who finished 3-6
on a disappointing homestand. New York has lost eight of 11
overall.

With the Mets short on available relievers, Jonathon Niese
(11-9) matched his career high with 122 pitches. He outlasted Cory
Luebke in a matchup of young left-handers from Ohio, but couldn’t
hold an early 2-0 lead.

The score was tied in the eighth when Maybin hit a leadoff
single and stole second on a pickoff throw to first. Duda’s toss
was a bit late to Tejada, subbing for injured Jose Reyes, and the
Mets didn’t get the call on a close play when Tejada applied the
tag on Maybin’s shoulder.

Niese, who pitched a one-hitter against San Diego last year at
Citi Field for his only major league shutout, put his hands on his
head, knowing he had a tough chore ahead.

One out later, Jesus Guzman was intentionally walked and the
runners pulled off a double steal as Kyle Blanks struck out. Aaron
Cunningham hit a grounder wide of third and Tejada charged in,
trying to scoop it on his forehand. But the ball kicked off the
heel of his glove, allowing Maybin to score.

After coughing up late leads in each of the first two games of
the series, the Padres’ proud bullpen closed this one out without
much trouble.

Chad Qualls (6-6) worked a perfect seventh, Luke Gregerson
pitched a hitless eighth and Bell pumped his fist after converting
his 32nd save in 35 chances.

Coming into the game, Luebke had 48 strikeouts and only seven
walks in eight starts since moving from the bullpen into the
rotation. Then he walked three in the first three innings, setting
a career high, and hit Justin Turner on the right foot with a
pitch.

Turner stole second and David Wright walked before Duda, the
only left-handed hitting position player in either starting lineup,
lined a 2-2 pitch over Cunningham’s head in right to put New York
ahead.

Before that swing, Luebke was holding left-handed batters to a
.148 average this season (16 for 108).

Maybin homered to left in the sixth and Cunningham lofted a
double toward the right-field line to begin the seventh. A two-out
single by No. 8 batter Luis Martinez tied it at 2.

Luebke threw 109 pitches over five innings before he was lifted
for a pinch-hitter. He walked four and struck out eight, one shy of
the career high he set in his previous outing at Pittsburgh.

The 21-year-old Tejada, who turned in a spectacular play
Wednesday night, made a throwing error to begin the third. Moments
later, he started a difficult double play.

New York hitting coach Dave Hudgens was ejected by plate umpire
Vic Carapazza for barking about balls and strikes from the dugout
after Nick Evans was called out on strikes with the bases loaded to
end the fifth.

NOTES: Padres 2B Orlando Hudson missed his second consecutive
game with a strained right groin. Logan Forsythe started in his
place. … San Diego manager Bud Black rested SS Jason Bartlett,
who grounded out as a pinch-hitter to end the seventh. … Wright
singled in the fifth, establishing a Mets record with 2,048 career
total bases. … New York CF Angel Pagan sat out after leaving
Wednesday night’s loss because of a lower back spasm. Scott
Hairston started in center, and batted leadoff for the first time
this season. … The teams meet again next week for a three-game
series in San Diego.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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