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LAD@ARI: Kennedy pitches seventh innings for 14th win

Dillon Gee was unbeatable for 10 starts. And then he came back to Earth.

New York's rookie starter has seen his luck change in recent weeks, and the Mets have lost five of his last eight starts after winning each of his first 10 outings. The right-hander will try to reverse that trend Friday against Arizona, but manager Terry Collins doesn't want him to get outside of his comfort zone.

Collins held forth with the media prior to Thursday's series finale against San Diego, and he was asked if he thought his staff -- which features five starters with an ERA between 3.75 and 4.53 -- could use a true ace. Johan Santana has missed the entire year, and Collins gave a predictable answer.

"There's 30 managers that wish they had that," said Collins of an ace starter. "There's only one who gets it probably, and that's [Philadelphia manager] Charlie [Manuel]. We all wish we had those guys that shut the game down throughout the game. That's a luxury. You've got to deal with what you have."

And in this case, the Mets have Gee, who has pitched to a 5-2 record and a 3.38 ERA at home compared to a 5-1 record and a 4.53 mark on the road. The D-backs will counter with All-Star snub and ace Ian Kennedy, who has lost just twice in his last 17 outings and leads the league in winning percentage (.824).

Getting his sixth straight win Sunday against the Dodgers, Kennedy outmuscled Clayton Kershaw, tossing seven innings of three-run ball. Striking out three and walking only one, he improved to 14-3 with a 3.20 ERA.

The Mets, 3-8 in their last 11 games and 12-14 since the All-Star break, are kicking off a six-game road trip that will take them through Arizona and San Diego. New York expects center fielder Angel Pagan -- who's been slowed by lower-back spasms -- back in the starting lineup Friday after a one-day absence.

The D-backs seized sole possession of first place Wednesday night for the first time since late June and kept it Thursday after some late-inning heroics in an 8-5, 10-inning win. Arizona is locked in a touch-and-go race with San Francisco, the defending World Series champion, and will face the Giants six more times this season. Arizona is 33-26 at home this season.

"I think the guys have been great. It's a good atmosphere, fairly loose, a lot of fun and their routines are set in a good way," manager Kirk Gibson said. "They continue to work towards trying to get better and continue to bond together."

Mets: Wright hits milestone
David Wright became the most prolific power hitter in franchise history Thursday, when he passed Ed Kranepool for the most total bases (2,048) as a Met. Wright needed just 1,061 games to reach that statistical peak, while Kranepool played in 1,853 games between 1962 and '79 to set the mark.

Wright, just 28 years old, is 33 RBIs from tying Daryl Strawberry (733) for the most in franchise history. The third baseman also trails Strawberry (469) by just three extra-base hits. Wright is the team's leader in doubles (272), and he ranks second to John Olerud in career batting average.

D-backs: Upton having a stellar season
Justin Upton, the top overall pick in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, has found himself in some heady company this season. Upton is one of just three players -- along with Miguel Cabrera and Troy Tulowitzki -- to have 125 hits, 30 doubles and 20 homers this season. The power-hitting outfielder is three stolen bases away from becoming just the second player in franchise history to go 20-20 in two seasons.

• Going 0-1 with a 12.38 ERA since coming to the D-backs, Jason Marquis has tried working between starts to get better results in his tilts.

"I just have to battle and compete and still find a way to get the job done," the D-backs starting pitcher said. "No matter what I feel in between the starts, that's what you're going to get from me on the mound."

Worth noting
• Jason Isringhausen is one save away from No. 300 for his career. Isringhausen would be the 23rd player to reach that mark, and the third Met -- after John Franco and Billy Wagner -- to get No. 300 in that uniform.

• Fifty-three of Arizona's 70 second-half games come against National League West opponents.

• The D-backs claimed infielder Tommy Manzella off waivers Thursday from the Astros and optioned him to Triple-A Reno.

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