Valdez allows only four hits in eight innings

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- Petco Park was blanketed in a heavy fog by the
sixth inning and so was Montreal's anemic offense, thanks to
another strong game by Ismael Valdez.

Valdez limited Montreal to four hits in eight innings and Mark Loretta homered to lead the San Diego Padres to a 3-0 victory over
the Expos on Tuesday night.

Valdez (3-0) has the best record of any Padres starter after
coming within three outs of his first shutout in nearly five years.
He began the season in the bullpen, then moved into the rotation
after No. 5 starter Sterling Hitchcock was diagnosed with a broken

"I felt pretty good," said Valdez, who retired nine straight
batters at one point and lowered his ERA to 2.42.

"I'm very fortunate to be 3-0 right now but it doesn't mean
anything. It's a combination of run support, good defense and
making my pitches. It's not just me, it's the whole team."

Valdez hasn't thrown a shutout since 1999 while with the Los
Angeles Dodgers, against the Chicago Cubs. He came close in 2002
before losing a shutout on a balk in the ninth inning against
Cincinnati, while with Texas. Last year, he threw eight scoreless
innings against Anaheim.

A heavy fog started blowing in during the sixth. By then the
Padres were up 3-0.

"Whoa. I never saw anything like that," Valdez said. "I was
kind of getting nervous. I couldn't see it from the bench. I
couldn't even see it from the mound. I don't know how these guys
can see it from the outfield. I'm very glad everything worked

Valdez struck out two, walked none and didn't allow a baserunner
past second.

"He's technically the fifth starter, but he's been a front-line
pitcher for us," Loretta said. "He's given us quality innings
every time out. He works quickly and keeps the fielders on their
toes. He uses his defense, and it's great to play behind a guy like

Trevor Hoffman pitched a perfect ninth for his fourth save in
five chances.

Montreal came in batting just .205 with 36 runs scored, the
worst in the major leagues. It was the sixth time the Expos have
been shut out this season in 21 games.

Montreal starter John Patterson left in the sixth inning with a
torn right groin muscle. He was hurt on his second pitch to Miguel
Ojeda with two on and two outs. Manager Frank Robinson and the
trainer came out to the mound, and Patterson was replaced by
Sun-woo Kim. Kim walked Ojeda to load the bases, then got rookie
Khalil Greene to fly out to right.

"He gives up three runs and he has no chance," a frustrated
Robinson said of Patterson, who allowed seven hits and struck out
eight, with one walk. "What can you ask a pitcher to do? What more
can they do?"

Patterson is expected to be out for at least three to four

"When I threw the first pitch to Ojeda it pulled a little
bit," Patterson said. "It just felt like it kind of tightened up
and then I just let go on the next pitch. My backside just

Loretta hit a two-run homer onto the second-floor balcony of the
Western Metal Supply Co. Building just beyond the left-field fence
in the first inning, his fourth. Sean Burroughs was aboard on a
leadoff single.

Ojeda, who had the game-winning single in the ninth inning of
Monday night's 3-2 win, hit an RBI single in the fourth.

Game notes
At 12-9, the Padres are three games over .500 for the first
time since May 5, 2002, when they were 17-14. ... Padres 3B-leadoff
hitter Burroughs was back in the lineup after missing the last two
games with a sprained ankle. ... INF Jeff Cirillo, who broke his
right index finger late in spring training, will begin a rehab
assignment, likely with Class-A Lake Elsinore, when the Padres go
back on the road next week.