FLUSHING, NY – Finally the New York Mets got the shutout instead of their opponent. Thank their ace pitcher Johan Santana and an offense that finally woke up, though without a home run again as they took the second of three games from the Cincinnati Reds 4-0 at Citi Field Saturday evening.
Manager Jerry Manuel has been regulated to saying the same thing in his post game press conferences. “We will get better,” he said the past week as his team was the recipient of four shutouts since the beginning of the month. But on Saturday, Manuel was brief and had no time to offer his usual laugh after a comment that has become customary.
His team scored some runs. Santana was effective again, newcomer Jeff Francoeur contributed, and the contributions of Angel Pagan and catcher Omir Santos made it a win the Mets needed. Pagan went 2-for-3 with a double and had two stolen bases in his second game back since returning from the 15-day disabled list.
“Things really worked out for us early,” said Manuel who saw his Mets bang out 11 hits, though once again going without a home run. The Mets have not hit a long ball since that July 2nd makeup game last week at Pittsburgh. “Pagan kind of set the table for us,” he said and the two bags swiped by Pagan were the first for the Mets in seven games.
And with that, Manuel got up and smiled. He did not have much more to say as Santana (10-7) allowed five hits, struck out five and walked one in seven innings. The native of Venezuela and recipient of pitcher of the year by the Latino sports writers and broadcast Association, with his 119th career victory moved past Freddy Garcia for most wins by a Major League pitcher from Venezuela.
“I am proud of being the pitcher with the most wins,” he said about the accomplishment. “I think the most important thing is we got the win.” Johnny Cueto (8-6) has his second bad start for the Reds as Pagan and Santos got the Mets started.
Pagan is also adding some good defensive play in center field, and when Carlos Beltran on the disabled list with a bruised knee returns, he and Pagan, with the addition of Francoeur in right can give the Mets a formidable outfield in the second half. Francoeur got a warm greeting from the Citi Field crowd and drove in two of the three Mets runs in the first inning.
And that hit for Francoeur, acquired for Ryan Church the night before, hopefully will set the tome for more games like the Mets had Saturday evening. “To be able to dump that one in the first inning,” felt good said Francoeur who became an immediate favorite with his teammates in the Mets clubhouse.
“They showed me around,” he said. “I’m not going to lie to you. That first at bat with a new team, I was nervous. The fans were great and it doesn’t matter where you play as long as you have a uniform and a number.”
Francouer a career .266 hitter and with a good arm in the outfield may be one of the first moves that Mets GM Omar Minaya made before the July 31 trading deadline. Though reports over the weekend continue to get stronger that Beltran will return soon after the upcoming all-star break, and Carlos Delgado is making a quicker than expected recovery from his hip surgery.
So the Mets could be at full strength again soon, and perhaps with one game remaining Sunday before the break, this first half season of misery will just a memory.