NEW YORK (AP) — Mike Baxter made the play of the game 12 pitches in.
The left fielder turned a potential two-run double into an inning-ending double play with a leaping catch of Jesus Guzman’s drive against the wall.
Dillon Gee relaxed after that and struck out a career-high nine to lead the New York Mets over the San Diego Padres 6-1 Friday night.
“Huge,” Gee said. “It gives me confidence going the rest of the game.”
He started with a five-pitch walk to Will Venable and allowed Yonder Alonso’s popped single to left that put runners at the corners. Baxter got a good read on Guzman’s drive and made what he considered his best catch ever.
“I didn’t even play outfield in Little League and high school,” he said. “That’s probably the first time at this level.”
He saw third baseman David Wright waving his arms to get his attention, then made a precise throw to shortstop Ronny Cedeno, who doubled up Alonso returning to first.
“It really lifted Dillon and everyone else. It was a tremendous play,” Mets manager Terry Collins said.
Venable scored on the sacrifice fly, putting the Padres ahead. New York first baseman Ike Davis was disappointed when he found out about that.
“I gave a first pump because I thought the run wouldn’t count,” Davis said.
Once Gee was back in the dugout, he was told to slow down by pitching coach Dan Warthen. Gee (4-3) wound up allowing just the one run and four hits in seven innings, combining with Tim Byrdak and Ramon Ramirez on a four-hitter.
Following Sunday’s 6-5 win at Toronto, Gee has wins in consecutive outings for the first time since he reeled off five in a row from May 13 to June 10 last year.
“That’s what I want to be, is a consistent guy that you know what you’re going to get every night out. Lately I haven’t been that guy, and it really gets under my skin,” Gee said. “I just feel my mechanics have been all out of whack. My right foot didn’t know what my left foot was doing, and I just felt lost.”
Lucas Duda hit a tying home run in the second off Anthony Bass (2-5), a solo drive off the front of the second deck in right,
Consecutive doubles by Gee and Baxter put the Mets ahead in the third, just the second extra-base hit for Gee in 70 career at-bats.
Kirk Nieuwenhuis followed with an RBI single for a 3-1 lead.
“That’s another thing that was getting under my skin. I didn’t have a hit yet this year,” said Gee, who had been 0 for 11. “I came in the dugout and I was just gasping for air.”
Baxter, hitting .352 in 54 at-bats, started in left field and led off for the third time in four games, forcing Andres Torres to the bench. The 27-year-old from Queens was claimed off waivers from San Diego last July.
Collins compared him in a way to Mike Piazza, a 62nd-round draft pick for the Los Angeles who became a 12-time All-Star for the Dodgers and the Mets.
“He came to camp to make the club,” the manager said. “Now he made the club. He’s pretty tough to get out of the lineup right now.”
Baxter was filled with praise for the Padres and their organization, and he was happy to see some of his former teammates.
“He’s a solid, fundamentally sound player. I think our minor league people taught him well,” Padres manager Bud Black said. “He’s a bright kid, our minor league guys really liked him. The cool thing is when a guy comes back and plays in his hometown.”
New York, which has split the first half of the four-game series, broke it open in the fifth when Daniel Murphy hit an RBI double and slumping Ike Davis hit a two-run single. Davis, who entered with a .164 average, has driven in runs in consecutive games for the third time this season.
“I’m a lot better player than I’ve showed,” he said “That’s what I’m supposed to do. Tonight I actually helped the team do something.”
Bass allowed six runs — matching his season high — eight hits and three walks in 5 1-3 innings.
“Honestly, it’s the best I felt all year,” he said. “Every mistake I made they hit.”
Wright went 0 for 3 with a walk, dropping his average to .397 — only its third day under .500 since May 12. Collins was especially pleased the rest of his offense came through on a night Wright didn’t, praising players with relatively little big league experience.
“They have been on those bus rides together. They’re up here now finally enjoying the fruits of all that time in the minor leagues,” Collins said. “They just enjoy playing with each other and playing hard. The winning is certainly a reflection of the way they’ve played the game.”
NOTES: Van Smith, a scout for the Padres since 1991, died Thursday at the age of 67. … Mets RHP Chris Young allowed three earned runs and five hits in 6 1-3 innings for St. Lucie against Charlotte in the Class A Florida State League. he threw 54 of 74 pitches for strikes. … Carlos Quentin, still recovering from right knee surgery in spring training, was supposed to made a rehab appearance for Class A Lake Elsinore. He also played for the Storm on May 9 and 10.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)