By AJ Cassavell and Troy Provost-Heron
NEW YORK -- After getting pummeled by one National League West opponent long since removed from the playoff picture on Thursday, the Mets were determined to make sure it didn't happen again. The Padres saw things differently.
Trailing by as much as six runs in the third inning, the Mets managed to crawl to within two runs, but the Padres stifled their comeback to take an 8-6 series-opening victory on Friday at Citi Field.
With the Marlins losing to the White Sox, New York is still just three games back of the final NL Wild Card spot, despite losing 12 of its last 16 games.
"I just want everybody to know that we're still in this thing," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "We put any run together, and we're OK."
Ryan Schimpf got things going with his first career grand slam in the first inning, and Jabari Blash followed with a shot of his own. Two innings later, a pair of home runs -- a two-run blast by Schimpf and a solo jack by Christian Bethancourt -- staked the Padres to an early six-run lead.
"We added on in the third, got three more there, and then the offense just kind of went silent the rest of the day," said Padres manager Andy Green. "That's the way you end up losing ballgames sometimes, if you don't keep scoring, keep adding on. But I thought that was a really big answer in the third inning."
A day after Collins delivered an impassioned rant to the media in which he challenged his team to have a "passion to come and play," the Mets responded.
Jay Bruce picked up an RBI single in the fifth, and the Mets really got their rally started in the sixth, as Matt Reynolds delivered an RBI double and Ty Kelly followed with an RBI single to trim the deficit to 8-5. With runners on the corners and nobody out, Brad Hand entered from the Padres' bullpen and proceeded to record three straight outs, allowing just one run to score on a Wilmer Flores groundout.
"The hole was too deep, but I was very impressed," Collins said. "You saw a lot better energy tonight and a lot more passion. There were some very good at-bats. To be down like we were and come back to make it a game -- we were two swings from getting a couple of runs -- I was impressed by how they went about it."
In his seventh and final start as a full-time member of New York's rotation, Logan Verrett was on the hook for the Padres' outburst, surrendering a career-high eight runs over 2 2/3 innings.
Paul Clemens pitched well in his fourth start as a Padre, picking up his first win with the club after allowing three runs on five hits over five innings while striking out three. Clemens battled lower-back tightness on the mound -- the second time he's done so since being acquired by the Padres at the end of June. This time, however, he was able to battle through and felt fine afterward.
"Any time you can get an early lead, it makes it easier," Clemens said. "[Catcher] Bethancourt called a tremendous game, worked his butt off back there for me. I'm not the easiest person to catch sometimes. Tip my hat to our defense, they made some great plays. Our offense was amazing."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Extra, extra: Through the first two months of his big league career, Schimpf's power has been nothing short of remarkable. Among his first 31 hits, 12 have left the yard and 24 have gone for extra bases. Schimpf's .319 ISO -- which measures a hitter's raw power -- is first in the Majors for players with at least 100 at-bats.
"The guys did a good job of working good at-bats and getting on," Schimpf said. "For me, I was just up there trying to get a good pitch to drive, and I got two of them. It was good to do something and get the win." More >
Rookie rockets: When Schimpf and Blash homered in the first inning, it marked the eighth time this season that the Padres have gone back-to-back and the second time that a rookie duo has accomplished the feat -- Schimpf and Alex Dickerson also hit consecutive dingers on July 24. In all of Major League Baseball, those are the only two instances of rookies hitting back-to-back home runs this season.
"It was a great day for him," Green said of Schimpf. "Obviously he and Jabari put us on the board early with five quick runs, and we held onto that lead -- really fought hard to hold onto that lead."
Hold it down: The Mets' comeback bid wouldn't have been possible if the bullpen didn't quiet the Padres bats after Verrett's early exit. Seth Lugo, Erik Goeddel and Hansel Robles combined to throw 6 1/3 perfect innings of relief while striking out eight batters.
"Hansel has pitched very well [all season], but I thought Seth Lugo did a real nice job coming in and giving us a chance to get back in the game, which is what we did," Collins said.
Moving on:Travis d'Arnaud had seen better days. Not only was he 1-for-his-last-15 entering play Friday, but he had also allowed the D-backs to steal a combined nine bases on Tuesday and Wednesday. In his return to the lineup Friday, though, he went 3-for-4, including slugging his fourth home run of the season. He also threw out Wil Myers at second base on an attempted steal to end the second. More >
"Brad Hand was outstanding today, coming in, giving us two solid innings. I went out there, I told him the runner on third doesn't matter, let him score and shut the rest of it down. He did that perfectly." -- Green, on Hand's two shutout innings
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Padres are only team in baseball with a rookie grand slam this seasson -- and they've now done that twice. (Dickerson hit a salami on May 10 against the Cubs.)
WHAT'S NEXT Padres:Jarred Cosart gets the ball for the middle game at Citi Field with first pitch slated for 4:10 p.m. PT Saturday. The right-hander, who came over from Miami at the Deadline, will be pitching for San Diego for the third time and remains in search of his first quality start of the season.
Mets:Jacob deGrom will start for the Mets on Saturday when they continue their three-game series against the Padres at 7:10 p.m. ET. Since the All-Star break, the right-hander is 2-1 with a 1.62 ERA, the third-lowest mark in the National League.