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SD@LAD: Kennedy fans eight over eight strong innings

Tabbed to open the Padres' rotation after the All-Star break, Ian Kennedy ended his first half with a season-high eight shutout innings Saturday. Kennedy and the Friars will open the second half against a hot Mets team that entered the break with eight wins in their previous 10 games.

The Padres have six home games left in July, starting with the series opener on Friday. In Kennedy's start against the Dodgers on Saturday, he allowed just three hits and four walks while fanning eight in a 117-pitch outing.

"He's pitching great. He really had command of the outside corner to right-handed hitters," manager Bud Black said after the game. "I thought that was the big difference tonight. He shut them down."

Kennedy's been stingy in July, with just two earned runs in 21 innings spanning three starts. He hasn't been generous with hits either, as opponents are 14-for-71 (.197) against him.

His 133 strikeouts in 124 1/3 innings this season are third-most in the National League, and also second-most ever for a Padres pitcher in the first half.

Kennedy has been better on the road, with a 3.06 ERA. In 64 2/3 innings outside of spacious Petco Park, where he's got a 3.92 mark and a 3-5 record, Kennedy has given up 22 earned runs and accumulated four wins against four losses.

Bartolo Colon is scheduled to take the mound for the Mets. The veteran has surprisingly been one of New York's best pitchers this season. The right-hander has a 3.99 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP while striking out more than five batters for every one he walks.

Colon's most glaring weakness -- especially of late -- is his tendency to give up runs in the first inning. He owns a 9.00 ERA in the first, but a 3.13 ERA the rest of the way. That difference is especially dramatic in Colon's last five outings dating back to June 18, during which he's allowed 11 earned runs in five opening frames (19.80 ERA) and four earned runs in the other 32 (1.13 ERA).

He hasn't been able to figure out why that happens. Pitching coach Dan Warthen had him throw more warmup pitches in the bullpen before his last start against Atlanta, but then the Braves scored twice in the first inning.

"Obviously the first inning is very important," Colon said through an interpreter afterward. "I'm just having a little trouble and I'm going to try to work to change it."

Mets: No plans to bring in another infielder
For the last three weeks, the Mets have carried six outfielders, four infielders and the versatile Eric Campbell, leaving them with no true backup middle infielder. According to manager Terry Collins, though, the club is happy with the roster construction the way it is.

"I don't know if we have any other options except continue with what we've got," Collins said. "I have not heard about any changes."

Campbell started at second base Sunday against the Marlins, his first Major League start at the position. Before being called up in May, he played second and some shortstop with Triple-A Las Vegas, his first in-game exposure to the positions as a pro.

"I'm not asking him to do anything more than make the routine play," Collins said.

Padres: Pitching staff one of best in Majors

San Diego's pitching staff has had a great last month. In 24 games since June 18, the Padres have allowed just 49 earned runs in 211 2/3 innings while limiting opponents to a .214 average. The 2.09 team ERA is the best in the Majors in that span by more than half a run.

On the season, their overall 3.18 ERA is second in the National League and fourth in baseball.

Among pitchers with at least 20 innings under their belt since June 18, the Padres have three starters with ERAs in the top 10 in the National League -- Odrisamer Despaigne (1.35), Jesse Hahn (1.74) and Tyson Ross (1.75). But their two other starters have also been effective with sub-3.00 ERAs of their own.

Kennedy has a 2.78 ERA in 32 1/3 innings across that period.

The only other NL team with more than one starter in the top 10 is the Dodgers, with Clayton Kershaw's 0.22 ERA and Josh Beckett's 1.88 mark.

Despite all that success, the Padres are just 12-12 during that span. On Sunday, San Diego lost to Los Angeles 1-0 for the second consecutive day to lose three of four to the Dodgers to end the first half.

"Our pitching has been really good," Black said after the Padres lost to the Dodgers in Kennedy's last turn. "We've got to get our bats going."

Worth noting
• San Diego first baseman Yonder Alonso (right wrist tendinitis) was with Class A Lake Elsinore on Sunday to hit and work out. He'll be joined there by second baseman Jedd Gyorko (plantar fasciitis, left foot) on Monday. Alonso and Gyorko are both working their way back from their respective injuries with an eye on Minor League rehabilitation stints in the not-so distant future.

• Reliever Nick Vincent (right shoulder fatigue) is set to begin his rehab stint Monday with Lake Elsinore.

• With an 8-2 homestand that included a sweep of the Marlins, the Mets were able to climb into third place in the NL East and get to five games under .500.

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