New York – Joey Votto swung, missed and struck out off a Johan Santana fastball in the first inning. The Cincinatti Reds would strand Brandon Phillips at third who led off the game with a double. Santana would only get better as the game went along, because his fastball was that good and it allowed his other pitches to work Tuesday evening at steamy Citi Field.
Santana, (6-5) who has been struggling got the Reds to swing and miss, also getting them to hit the ball to center. In the end it was a complete game shutout thrown by Santana, a 3-0 win, and in the process the Mets discovered that he also can contribute to the lineup.
The Mets pitching ace hit his first career home run in the third inning off Reds rookie pitcher Matt Maloney That got cheers from the crowd and also a coronation of sorts from his teammates in the dugout. “I hit it and started running,” Santana said about the home run. “I’m on the board. At least I hit one.”
It was a 12- pitch at bat for Santana. The home run ball banged off the foul pole and Santana gave his team a 1-0 lead they would never relinquish. Santana had the fastball, as well as the changeup and breaking ball working to perfection.
“I felt better throwing my fastball and it makes my other pitches better,” said Santana who won one game in his last seven starts. After the Phillips hit in the first, he would not allow another until Orlando Cabrera singled in the sixth.
The key was the fastball. It has always been a vintage pitch that has lost some velocity. But this night, Santana was throwing hard and had the command. He would allow three hits, walked three, and struck out five in throwing the Mets’ second complete- game shutout of the season.
And it wasn’t until the ninth inning before Mets manager Jerry Manuel contemplated taking Santana out of the game. But he let him finish off the Reds after a brief visit to the mound. Scott Rolen singled with one out, and then left fielder Jason Bay dropped a Jay Bruce fly ball for an error.
Bay snapped a personnel string of 263 games of errorless ball and also drove in two of the Mets runs as he continues his resurgence at the plate. As to what was said at the mound, Santana said to Manuel, “I’ll finish it, simple.”
And finish it he did. Jonny Gomes lined out and Drew Stubbs ended the game on a ground out force. “I wanted him to hear him tell me that he wanted to finish it,” explained Manuel about his visit that got some boos from the remaining 27,473 fans that braved the game time temperature of 96 degrees.
“I hate to remove a guy because of a defensive mistake,” added Manuel who said he expects big things from Santana in the second half of the season. “You see a little more in the fastball. You saw it challenging Brandon Phillips,” he said about Santana retiring the Reds .307 leadoff hitter to fly out three times to center and right.
Ready in the pen was Frankie Rodriguez the Mets stopper with 20 saves, but, as of late, having trouble closing the door. In the end, he wasn’t needed. “Of course I know what type of competitor he is and it paid off,” said Rodriguez about Santana completing the game.
Santana got his home run ball for keeps and is undefeated in four career starts against the Reds. A win for the Mets also that kept them two games in back of first place Atlanta. For Santana, even without great stuff he proves to be a competitor.
Now that the stuff is back, he also has the bat to go with it.
NOTES FROM CITI FIELD: It was the 45th home run by a Mets pitcher in their history and first since John Maine did it against Pittsburgh on July 24, 2007 at Shea Stadium… The three hits tied the fewest Santana has allowed in a complete game, his seventh career complete-game shutout, and the second Mets pitcher to throw a complete-game shutout and hit a home run in the same game. The last to do that, Pete Falcone on September 29, 1981 over the Phillies 7-0 also at Shea…
Jose Reyes returned to the lineup after missing six games with a sore right oblique, finishing 2-for-4 with a run scored. The Mets improved to 30-9 when Reyes scores a run… It was the Mets 12th shutout of the season which tied San Diego for most in baseball…
Oliver Perez threw 5.2 innings, allowing two runs, two hits and three walks and striking out seven in his second rehabilitation start for St. Lucie (A) of the Florida State League… Final game of the series is this evening with Bronson Arroyo (8-4) on the mound for the Reds opposing lefthander Jonathan Niese (6-2) for New York.
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