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SAN FRANCISCO - Johan Santana finally received run support. Fielding help? Not so much.
Still, the Mets continued to steamroll through the early stages of their three-city, 10-game trip. They denied Randy Johnson his 299th career victory and beat the Giants, 9-6, Saturday.
With Jose Reyes out for a third straight start because of calf discomfort, and with Carlos Delgado officially decommissioned with a hip impingement, the Mets (21-15) nonetheless improved to 11-2 since Oliver Perez’s woeful outing in Philadelphia. They will attempt their first four-game sweep of the Giants since 1990 - and their first sweep of a series of any length in the Bay Area since ‘94 - when Mike Pelfrey opposes Matt Cain tonight.
Santana’s streak of starts allowing two earned runs or fewer, which had been the longest active in the majors, was snapped at 13. He was charged with six runs (four earned) on 11 hits in seven innings.
The Giants (18-18) pulled within 7-6 in the seventh against Santana on Randy Winn’s RBI single, but Winn was caught stealing on a pickoff move for the inning’s final out, ending Santana’s afternoon at 101 pitches. Bobby Parnell and J.J. Putz, the latter in his first action since an injection of anti-inflammatory medication, held the Giants scoreless over the final two innings with Francisco Rodriguez unavailable after seeing action four straight days. Putz, provided a three-run cushion by Fernando Tatis’ sacrifice fly and Ramon Castro’s RBI single in the ninth, earned his first save as a Met.
Santana (5-2), who has twice lost games this season in which he hasn’t allowed an earned run, continued to deal with faulty fielding behind him. The ace now has allowed six unearned runs and eight earned runs this season, which has translated to an NL-best 1.36 ERA.
With the Mets holding a 3-0 lead in the third, Luis Castillo sidearmed a throw wide of Tatis at first base for an error on a two-out grounder by Fred Lewis. Pablo Sandoval followed with an RBI double, although Sandoval was thrown out trying to advance to third on the throw to the plate.
An inning later, Winn’s hard grounder bounced off David Wright and into foul territory down left-field line for a two-base error, which advanced Bengie Molina to third. Aaron Rowand followed with a two-run single that tied the score at 3, with Molina’s run ultimately ruled earned because he had led off with a single. Molina’s score ended Santana’s streak of 22.1 innings without allowing an earned run.
Another Giants run, which pulled them within 7-5 in the sixth, likely would have been handled had Reyes been at shortstop. After a solo homer by Rowand and single by Travis Ishikawa, pinch-hitter Rich Aurilia sent a fly ball to shallow left. The ball glanced off the glove of retreating fill-in Alex Cora and was ruled an RBI double.
After scoring a combined 15 runs in Santana’s first seven starts, the first four Mets batters produced hits Saturday in a three-run first inning. Carlos Beltran had a two-run double and scored on Wright’s run-scoring groundout to first base.
In the first game with Delgado on the disabled list, the Mets’ other core players picked up the slack at the plate. The Mets took a 7-3 lead with a four-run fifth. Beltran delivered an RBI double. Wright chased Johnson before the Big Unit recorded an out in the inning with a two-run double, the third baseman’s eighth hit in 11 at-bats in the series. Castro added a run-scoring single against reliever Justin Miller. Johnson, in his first career matchup with Santana, was charged with seven runs on 11 hits in four-plus innings.
I was going to take a day off from blogging, but after reading all of the great comments you guys posted Friday, and following one of the most satisfying Met wins in the last few years, I figured I would keep things going.
First, Friday night’s game.
While we all doubt the guts on this team at times, it’s hard to after the 8-6 win. Down 4-1 after the first inning, the Mets just kept - as Art Howe would say - battling. We all know they don’t even come close to winning this game last season. Actually, the 2008 Mets would be 0-2 on this trip, not 2-0.
Thursday night, after blowing the lead in the eighth, instead of falling apart, they respond with a three-run ninth. Friday night, trailing Tim Linecum 5-1 after two innings, they string together some great at-bats - including a huge pinch-hit from Daniel Murphy - to chip away, and then tie it on another huge clutch hit from David Wright and take the lead thanks to another big hit from Wright in the ninth.
I didn’t hurt that the wall in the right field is about 50 feet high or that Brian Wilson pitched more like the wacky Beach Boy than a big league reliever.
Of course, once the Mets have the lead in the ninth it’s over with K-Rod on the hill.
Also, this aggressiveness on the basepaths is awesome. They are finally taking it to teams and not waiting around for things to just happen. With Johan on the hill today and Pelfrey Sunday, I now want 3 out of 4 in San Fran, or maybe - dare I say it - a sweep.
Now to the Reyes discussion from Friday:
While I really do appreciate Yamphy stirring it up with his Phillies talk, it was nice to have him contribute to a good baseball conversation without any anti-Met sentiment (enjoy it while it lasts).
Here is how I feel on the whole Reyes/Halladay situation:
I don’t think the Mets, even if they are willing to part with Reyes, will actively shop him around this offseason, but they may be willing to ship him out if the deal is right. Case in point, when Santana was available, Minaya said he would never include Reyes, even if it meant not getting Santana. I think if a situation like that arises again (ie Halladay), they might do it.
But let’s not kid ourselves and think Reyes alone would bring back a guy like Halladay. (Some caller on WFAN today suggested a trade of Reyes for Halladay and Alex Rios). If the Jays decide they can’t pay the guy and make him available, an all-out bidding war would begin.
The Mets got Santana because the Twins overplayed their hand with the Yanks and Red Sox. Minny thought it was going to get those two teams to bid against each other, but once it became clear the Red Sox were only it in to stop the Yanks from getting him, and once the Yanks decided to go with Hughes and Kennedy, the Twins were done.
Halladay, however, would be a different story. I’m sure the Mets, Red Sox, Yanks and Dodgers (you know the only teams that can afford him) would be heavily involved, so if the Mets had any chance to get Halladay, you figure the starting point would be a package of Reyes, Pelfrey and Parnell. Plus, you would have to pay him - as Yamphy points out - nothing less than $25M a year. So really, if the Mets ever did land him, that’s about $50M tied up in Santana and Halladay. And with the Mets having no intention of going over the luxury tax limit, what would the rest of the team look like?
I think the Mets would be better served - if they are planning on trading Reyes - going after Matt Holliday (and move Murphy to first), or a power hitting first baseman, since it’s clear this is Carlos Delgado’s last year in Queens.
Reyes looked awful pinch-hitting Friday, but I can’t kill him for that. And as Gary Cohen pointed out, while he was ripped for his baserunning Wednesday, Reyes did go 3-for-5 with three doubles.
= = =
A few other things, while I have your attention.
- The home plate umpire in Friday’s Met game was an absolute joke. Maybe Megamets is right.
- I have trouble listening to Mike Francessa when the subject is the Mets, because we all know he hates the team and enjoys tweaking Met fans. He’s the reason why CD players in cars were invented.
- I know Omir Santos failed in the seventh with a guy on third with one out, but he really is a strong situational hitter. Two sac flies Friday night, both coming when the Mets really needed a run.
- David Wright is really heating up. Two huge hits tonight. Not to sound like the king of excuses J.J. Putz, but maybe Wright and the rest of the Met hitters are still adjusting to Citi Field, because they certainly seem to hit better on the road this year.
- I officially take back all the bad things I wrote about Gary Sheffield when they signed him. While he has not only produced on the field, he has also kept his mouth shut, which is pretty amazing. Of course, with Delgado out, he is playing every day, but even when he was a role player early on, he never complained. I’m sure Omar is already working on a 3-year, $24M extension for the dude. Sorry, that was a cheap shot.
- Livan really showed me a lot tonight. While he clearly didn’t have it, he kept the Mets in the game and didn’t fall apart like Ollie Perez did in San Fran last year. His pitching line won’t look great, but he fought through.
- Next week is a huge week for Bitter Bill. I have the 24 season finale on Monday, the Terminator flick on Friday and Wifflefest 2009 is Saturday. I hope the wife and kids keep themselves busy, too.
- That’s it for now. I’m sure after scoring 15 runs in their last two games, the Mets will be lucky to get 1 or 2 Saturday for Johan.
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