NEW YORK -- Maybe the Los Angeles Dodgers should try some more first-time starters.
Stults, a 26-year-old left-hander making his first major league start, combined with three relievers on a three-hitter. On Friday, Hong-Chih Kuo and three relievers teamed on a four-hitter in a 5-0 win.
"There's no way we could ask for any better," Dodgers manager Grady Little said. "We had two kids that we knew we could put out there with decent stuff, that we knew they would compete."
Kenny Lofton gave Stults the lead with a three-run triple in the third off a shaky Steve Trachsel, and Nomar Garciaparra added a three-run homer and four RBI for the Dodgers, who remained 1½ games ahead of second-place San Diego in the NL West. The Padres beat the Giants 10-2 Sunday night.
The Mets, who beat Brad Penny and Greg Maddux in the other two games of the series, saw the magic number for clinching their first NL East title since 1988 trimmed to four when Philadelphia lost to Florida.
Pitching in place of Mark Hendrickson, who is working on his mechanics while pitching in relief, Stults gave up a single up the middle to his second batter, Endy Chavez, and didn't allow another hit until Jose Reyes homered to left-center with two outs in the sixth.
After Chavez's hit, Stults got Paul Lo Duca to hit into an inning-ending double play.
"I had to kind of regain my composure and, fortunately, after that I kind of settled in and felt really comfortable," Stults said. "You get through that first inning and nothing was hurt, put up a zero, it's always easier to go out there the next inning. It takes a little pressure off."
Stults (1-0) struck out three and walked two, throwing 86 pitches, and he also got his first major league hit. He was 10-11 with a 4.23 ERA this season at Triple-A Las Vegas, then allowed three runs and five hits over three innings in his major league debut Tuesday at Milwaukee.
"That helped a lot. That took a lot of the nervousness away," he said.
Stults' wife, 7½-month-old daughter, parents and in-laws all were on hand to watch. He had spoken to his wife about the start Saturday night.
"She was asking, `Are you nervous?' I decided to kind of tell her and tell myself that it's still baseball. You still have to go out and execute pitches," he said.
Stults and Kuo spent much of the last few years together as they both came back from elbow ligament replacement surgery.
"It was special watching Kuo go out and do what he did," Stults said. "That helped a little bit. He kept cheering me on today."
There was a solemn ceremony before the game marking Monday's fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, but by the sixth inning it resembled a spring training contest at Vero Beach or Port St. Lucie, with both teams liberally substituting.
Trachsel (14-7) lost his second straight start after going 12-1 in an 18-start stretch from May 23 through Aug. 29.
After Trachsel retired his first six batters, Los Angeles loaded the bases on three second-inning singles. Lofton, who had been 0-for-6 with the bases full this year, batted with one out and worked the count to 3-2, then pulled a high fastball down the right-field line.
His helmet flipped off as he rounded second and he easily made it to third with a triple, then scored when Garciaparra singled over third baseman David Wright with the infield in.
"It's something mechanical I'm doing, something that's causing me to miss pitches or miss location," Trachsel said.
Perhaps putting his postseason starting spot in jeopardy, he allowed four runs, five hits and two walks in 2 2/3 innings, with his ERA rising to a season-high 5.17. Trachsel couldn't throw his curveball for strikes.
"Every once in a while, he's going to have a bad one," Mets manager Willie Randolph said. "I'm not concerned. He'll turn it around."
Fans booed as Trachsel walked off the mound.
"I don't know how I looked, but I'm definitely not happy," he said.
"At this point," Lofton said, "we have to just win."
- With a crowd of 48,760, New York raised its season home attendance to 3,040,920, only its third time over 3 million and first since drawing a record 3,047,724 in 1988.
- The Mets wore caps honoring New York City policemen, firefighters, medical workers and court officers, and Port Authority police. They planned to wear the caps again Monday at Florida.
- Mets RHP Pedro Martinez, sidelined since Aug. 14 because of a strained calf, will start during the weekend series at Pittsburgh, possibly on Friday, Randolph said.
- Julio Franco entered in the ninth and made his first appearance at third base since Oct. 2, 1982, for Philadelphia against the Mets. He became the 134th third baseman in Mets history.