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NYM@PIT: Johan strikes out seven over 6 1/3 innings

Entering this season, there were a lot of questions surrounding Johan Santana's surgically repaired left shoulder. With his first nine starts, Santana answered most of them.

Santana takes the ball for the Mets in Saturday's game against the Padres, who counter with Clayton Richard. The Mets' lefty isn't having a problem with stamina -- he's pitched through the sixth inning in each of his last four starts.

"I've been getting better and feeling better every time I'm out there," Santana said Tuesday. "We still have some way to go, and I've just got to continue improving and getting better and getting a feeling for it."

Mets manager Terry Collins knows that Santana hasn't been dominant but appreciates that he puts the Mets in good position to win.

"He's doing his job very, very effectively," Collins said.

The Padres are just 2-7 in Richard's starts this season, but his last two outings have been solid. He gave up two runs in seven innings against the Dodgers on May 16 and two runs in 7 1/3 innings against the Cardinals on May 21.

He earned the win against the Dodgers, but took a no-decision against the Cardinals after shortstop Tyler Greene hit a go-ahead two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth.

Richard's ERA has shrunk from 5.32 to 4.63 since May 11.

Mets: Collins believes in Duda's power
• Right fielder Lucas Duda's second-inning homer on Friday was his first since April 28. Collins believed Duda's power would come back soon, even before he saw evidence on Friday.

"I look back at last year, when he was first here," Collins said. "He didn't get rolling until he was really here a while. I still think he's going to be fine. ... Knowing him and the way he's hit for us, he's probably over-swinging a little bit."

Duda hit four homers in April, including two on the second day of the season. He started to show some power in the last six weeks of the 2011 season, hitting seven home runs after Aug. 14.

Recently, Duda has been trying to hit to the opposite field. Collins said Duda's strong enough to hit a homer anywhere in the park, but that he's looking to just get a hit when he gets deep in counts.

"That cuts his swing back a little bit instead of continuing to try to hit the ball in the seats," Collins said. "But I think as we go, Lucas is going to be a dynamic power hitter in this league."

Padres: Stults should be fine for Tuesday
• Pitcher Eric Stults, who was hit in the back of the left triceps with a line drive in Thursday's series opener, thinks he will be ready to go for his next start Tuesday against the Cubs.

Stults said he had a full range of motion on Friday.

"We're getting a lot of treatment and working on getting the swelling down," Stults said. "Once we get the swelling out of there, I don't think that will be an issue."

In his 11 2/3 innings with the Padres, Stults has given up eight hits and two runs. He picked up the win in Thursday's game after giving up just an unearned run in five innings.

• Despite an 0-for-4 Friday night, center fielder Cameron Maybin's batting average is at .218, a decent improvement from his .183 average on May 1.

"He's really focused on using the middle of the field," Padres manager Bud Black said.

Worth noting
• The Mets and the Marlins are the only two teams in baseball that have a negative run differential and a winning record. The Mets have been outscored by 30 runs this year.

• The Padres are 1-21 this season when trailing after six innings.

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