Hefner struggles after delay, Mets lose to Padres

Jeremy Hefner was off to a good start in the rain. He lost his grip after a long delay.

Hefner was hit hard once he returned to the mound in the third inning following a stoppage of 1 hour, 8 minutes, and the New York Mets lost to the San Diego Padres 11-5 Thursday night to spoil his first big league start.

"It was pretty difficult (trying to get going again), but I still think I had the ability to go in and shut down the lineup, and I didn't," Hefner said. "It's a learning experience, and if I ever have to face it again, I now know what I need to do."

Mets manager Terry Collins was confident Hefner could bounce back after the break because the rookie had given up just one hit in the first two innings.

"He hadn't thrown very many pitches and he kept himself active during the break," Collins said. "He said he was fine; we brought him back out. I think he lost his edge a little bit."

Will Venable hit the first of his two RBI doubles and Cameron Maybin had one of his two run-scoring singles in a four-run third inning that broke the game open. Jesus Guzman hit a two-run double in the big inning to help the Padres rebound from being swept in a three-game series in St. Louis.

Everth Cabrera had a career-high four hits and Eric Stults (1-0) pitched five innings to earn his first win with San Diego.

Fielding a lineup in which the 6-7-8 batters all had averages under .200, the Padres set a season-high for runs and had their best effort for hits with 18. Cabrera was just 2 for 21 coming in. Nick Hundley homered in the ninth to give every position player at least one hit.

"I thought all night long the guys had really good at-bats," Padres manager Bud Black said. "That was probably, obviously, the best offensive night we had all year."

Both starters wearing No. 53 returned to the mound the delay after the second inning. Stults adjusted better than Hefner (0-2), shutting down the Mets for three more innings.

David Wright hit a two-run homer off Matt Palmer in the sixth and he finished 3 for 5 to raise his average to .405 in the first game of the Mets' season-long 11-game homestand.

"He's in a zone like no other," Collins said. "His whole approach, I mean, you watch him get ready before a game starts. He's got a routine he sticks with. He believes in it and he gets himself ready to play."

In an encouraging sign for the Mets, struggling first baseman Ike Davis had a two-run single pinch-hitting in the eighth inning. Before the game he said Collins gave him a vote of confidence by telling him that he would remain with the Mets to work out his problems at the plate rather than go to the minors.

"I thought Ike was certainly being himself today," Collins said. "I only talked to him briefly, a little bit on the field, but I had three or four people telling me that they thought he was a different person today, personality wise. And that was the intent to try to ease off a little bit. Let him take a deep breath and get himself thinking about what he's got to do to be successful and not what's hanging over his head."

Hefner was making his first big league start — against the team that drafted and signed him in 2007, when New York's current GM Sandy Alderson was running the Padres. Hefner twice chose college over signing with the Mets after they picked him in the 2004 and '05 drafts.

Alderson got Hefner back this winter off the waiver wire from Pittsburgh, which had the right-hander for a month.

Pitching in the rain from the start, Hefner gave up a hit in two innings and the Mets led 1-0 on an unearned run when the rain picked up and the tarp came out.

"The first two innings, he was outstanding," Collins said.

He promptly gave up a double down the third base line to Cabrera to restart the game. After Stults grounded out, the Padres scored four times on four straight hits.

Venable and Maybin had RBI hits with two outs in fourth, ending Hefner's night. Venable finished with two hits a night after coming up a triple shy of the cycle.

Hefner gave up nine hits and six runs.

Stults gave up one hit after the wait. Overall, he allowed an unearned run and four hits in five innings. He was claimed off waivers by the Padres from the Chicago White Sox on May 17.

With 13 players on the disabled list, including starters Tim Stauffer, Cory Luebke and Dustin Moseley, Stults has been a nice addition for San Diego. In his first start, he allowed two runs and four hits in 6 2-3 innings.

With Stults out, the Mets tried mounting a rally. Wright's homer to straightaway center field cut the lead to 6-3 and Scott Hairston followed with a single. But Brad Brach relieved and struck out the side.

NOTES: Mets injury update: SS Ruben Tejada (strained right calf) will run the bases Friday. Collins hopes he'll begin playing rehab games Monday. C Josh Thole (concussion) is participating in baseball activities but has not gotten behind plate yet. He may play an inning in an extended spring game Friday. LF Jason Bay (broken rib) has started taking batting practice. ... NYPD Officer Kevin Brennan, who was shot in the head Jan. 31, threw out the ceremonial first pitch.