SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Despite a slow start, a slew of injuries and two straight losses to San Francisco end the first half, the New York Mets head into the All-Star break with a winning record.
Mike Pelfrey gave up two early runs and the Mets failed to capitalize on numerous scoring chances against Giants All-Star Matt Cain in a 4-2 loss to San Francisco on Sunday night in the final game before the All-Star break.
New York lost the past two games to Cain (8-5) and fellow All-Star Tim Lincecum for their first road series lost since May. They still finished the first half at 46-45 despite starting the season 5-13 and dealing with injuries to key players like Jose Reyes, David Wright and Ike Davis.
"It could be better and it could be worse," outfielder Jason Bay said. "If you were to tell me we would be missing Player A and B and still be where we are, I think most of us would take it. There are definitely reasons for optimism, no question. When we start getting guys back, it will be like making a trade."
The Mets had their chances to end the first half on a bright note, but were unable to score against Cain.
They wasted a leadoff double by Daniel Murphy in the second, left the bases loaded in the third when Murphy popped up to end the inning, were unable to score after Lucas Duda's one-out triple in the fourth and squandered Turner's one-out double in the fifth. Cain's night ended when he struck out Ruben Tejada on his 118th pitch to end the sixth with Ronny Paulino on second base.
"We had Cain on the ropes several times, but he got out of it, which is what pitchers like that do," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "When we're playing good, we were getting the two-out hits. We didn't do that the last two nights here."
Cain (8-5) delivered the latest strong pitching performance for the World Series champions. He escaped trouble all night, pitching around four extra-base hits and stranding six runners in scoring position to win for the fifth time in his last six decisions. Cain allowed five hits and three walks, lowering his ERA to 2.06 over his last eight starts.
Nick Evans hit a pinch-hit homer off Jeremy Affeldt in the eighth and Justin Turner added an RBI double off Brian Wilson in the ninth. Wilson recovered to strike out Carlos Beltran to finish the game and record his 26th save in 30 chances.
Pablo Sandoval celebrated his first All-Star selection with an RBI double to extend his hitting streak to 21 games and Nate Schierholtz had four hits and an RBI after being moved up to the cleanup spot for the Giants, who have won four of five to take a three-game lead over Arizona in the NL West heading into the All-Star break. This is the first time since 2003 that San Francisco enters the break in first place.
"It feels good," Cain said. "We've put in a lot of work. We're finishing on a good note. We'll take the break and try to come back and do the same thing in the second half."
Sandoval got the news earlier in the day that he would be making his first All-Star game appearance as in injury replacement for Mets shortstop Jose Reyes, who is on the DL with a hamstring injury. The All-Star selection was the latest accolade in a turnaround season for Sandoval, who lost nearly 40 pounds this offseason after he struggled with his weight and hitting in 2010.
Sandoval just missed out on the All-Star game in 2009 despite having a .333 average with 15 homers and 55 RBIs at the break. Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel picked his own player, Shane Victorino, instead of Sandoval that year. With San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy making picks, Sandoval got his chance despite missing 40 games with an injured right wrist.
"It was a special moment," Bochy said. "This means a lot to him. He was very disappointed last time he had a chance and didn't make it. He's very excited about this. He got emotional out there before the game."
Sandoval received a warm ovation in a pregame ceremony and then backed his manager's pick when he doubled in Andres Torres in the third inning to score the game's first run. Schierholtz followed with an RBI single off Pelfrey (5-8) to give the Giants a 2-0 lead.
The Giants added two runs in the seventh off Jonathon Niese in his first career relief appearance. Miguel Tejada and Aaron Rowand had RBI singles in the inning.
Notes: New York had seven extra-base hits. ... The Mets have set their rotation for after the break, with R.A. Dickey starting Friday against the Phillies, followed by Niese, Pelfrey, Chris Capuano and Dillon Gee. ... The Giants sold out all 44 home games before the All-Star break.
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