Pitchers tend enjoy watching each other hit, so when Johan Santana took Matt Maloney deep last night for his first home run in – well – ever, the rest of the staff had to chime in.
“You tell him, he will never hit another one again,” laughed closer Frankie Rodriguez. “He grabbed a bat and was walking around the dugout saying he was going to hit one out.”
Of course with Santana leading the staff in home runs, other pitchers have to get their shot.
“As soon as he hit it, [Mike Pelfrey] ran in to the cage and started taking some extra batting practice,” deadpanned R.A. Dickey with the righthander in earshot and added, “So I have to hit one now, that’s how it works.”
The bottom line is that Santana finally found the formula to get himself back in the win column. As Jerry Koosman once said, “Shut them out and hit one out. Then you got yourself a win.”
And it seems like Santana needed the third home run to win this one, as the Mets still struggled to score runs. Only a fortunate sixth inning gave the ace some cushion in route to his sixth win of the year.
But it’s been like that for Santana all season. With very few runs behind him, he had no room for error. Unfortunately it meant he went through his rough patch in June, while the Mets were piling up the wins. But as the page turned to July it seemed to be Santana time.
He is 61-19 with a 2.73 ERA during the second half of the season. In 2008, he went 9-0 down the stretch and now it looks like he’s doing it again. Santana made a change in his arm angle, which is allowing his fastball a more explosive look, going back to the low-90s. Couple that with a change in his motion, which stopped tipping his pitches and you can see why he’s the Johan Santana of old.
“I am throwing my fastball much better,” Santana said. “And that makes my other pitches better.”
Especially his changeup, which is deadly.
“You saw hitters taking that changeup before,” said manager Jerry Manuel, “where tonight you saw it’s like he pulls the bat through the strike zone with that changeup.”
That’s why Manuel quickly retreated to the dugout with one out in the ninth and runners on first and second after Jason Bay’s error. The look on his ace’s face told the story.
“I’ll finish it,” he said.
And two pitches later he did ending an almost perfect night by the Mets ace.
Rodriguez may be right in that Santana may never hit another home run, but who cares? The most important thing is that the real Johan Santana is back.