Johan Santana pitched a satisfying shutout and the Mets batters showed they can carry New York without needing David Wright to excel in every game.
Santana's four-hitter was his first shutout since returning from shoulder surgery in 2010. He threw 96 pitches, and probably only had 10 or 15 more before manager Terry Collins would have pulled him. It never came down to that. He even batted in the eighth, despite feeling discomfort in his right side that kept him from swinging the bat.
"He wanted it bad," Collins said after a 9-0 win over the San Diego Padres. "He's so special. It's incredible."
The Mets' offensive outburst was their biggest one with Santana in the game this season, too. Mike Nickeas hit New York's first grand slam of the season, and Scott Hairston and Vinny Rottino also homered for the Mets. Ike Davis got a pinch-hit double in the eighth, giving him hits in four straight games and an RBI in three straight.
Wright went 0 for 3 with a walk, dropping his batting average to .390. He was hitting .405 after Thursday's game.
"We've rode David for so long," Collins said. "We've finally got some other guys stepping up."
None did so more than Santana, whose last shutout was Aug. 12, 2010, a 4-0 win over the Colorado Rockies that came less than a month before shoulder surgery cost him the rest of the year and all of 2011.
This season, Santana (2-2) had gone without a decision in his last three starts, all Mets losses, and had six no-decisions in his first nine. He had mostly pitched well, but was lacking a signature game that fans could take comfort in as evidence that he was truly back.
"I didn't know how everything was going to be," Santana said. "I've been working and I'm still working. You never know. You always have to go out there and perform."
Clayton Richard (2-6) faced two batters over the minimum in his final five innings, thanks to a double play and a successful pickoff, after Hairston singled in the sixth. Overall, the left-hander allowed four runs in six innings, five hits, three walks and struck out five.
"It's tough when you put your team in a hole from the get-go," Richard said. "We were able to make some adjustments (after the first), and I was able to throw strikes early in the count."
Andres Torres led off the first with a single, Wright walked and they both moved up on a balk that proved inconsequential when Hairston sent a high rainbow off the top part of what had been the wall in left before the Mets moved the fences in before this season.
Rottino, a 32-year-old with fewer than three dozen games in the big leagues, followed with his first major league home run, a drive to left-center that also would have been in play last season.
The Mets won for the fifth time in seven games and have homered in three straight games and their last four at Citi Field. Their modest output — five homers in the last three games — looked downright bountiful compared with the rest of the season — New York began the day 29th in the big leagues with 27 homers.
The Padres, who have dropped five of six, lost slumping outfielder Cameron Maybin to a right wrist injury. He was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the sixth inning.
"He's been taking extra BP, trying to figure this out," manager Bud Black said, "and the wrist just flared."
Maybin said he hoped to return "as quick as I can."
After allowing a leadoff single to Chase Headley in the second, Santana retired 16 straight before Jesus Guzman singled with one out in the seventh.
Santana didn't walk a batter and struck out seven. Two of the Padres hits were less than well-struck. Yonder Alonso hit a blooper in the first and Blake Tekotte had an infield single in the ninth, though he was erased on a double play.
Nickeas hit a grand slam with two outs in the eighth inning, bringing Santana to the plate for a warm round of applause before he watched four pitches go by, took his strikeout and went out to finish off his best outing of the season.
"It was awesome," Nickeas said. He was talking about getting to catch Santana's game. "I never want to say it's easy, but when Johan's on, it's easier."
He added: "The grand slam was the icing for me."
Fans stood and cheered after the Mets turned a double play in the ninth inning, and then Alonso hit a dribbler down the line. Santana fielded it, stood there waiting, and then tagged Alonso to finish his 14th career game and ninth career shutout in a brisk 2 hours, 18 minutes. Santana smacked the Padres' batter on his backside, then went to shake hands.
"Any time you pitch a complete game, it's a good feeling," Santana said later in front of his locker, his left shoulder swaddled in ice. "It's not easy to do."
NOTES: Sunday's starter for the Padres is Edinson Volquez. The right-hander needs six strikeouts to overtake Anthony Bass (55) for the Padres' lead. Mets RHP R.A. Dickey will pitch for New York. The knuckleballer has fanned 51 and walked 16 in 57 1-3 innings. ... Padres 1B Alonso hit a blooper to shallow left-center in the first inning that fell in, giving him a hit in 25 of his last 27 games. ... Rottino said he had to exchange a bat and a ball to get back the game ball from his homer. The well-traveled longtime minor leaguer doesn't have a lot of bats, so he reached for one he hadn't used recently. Only later did he realize his mistake: "It was a Florida Marlins bat," He said.