Mets 4 Nationals 3
How difficult is it to miss a slam dunk? Because the Mets came darn close to pulling it off.
With ace Johan Santana going to the hill against the worst team in baseball, and a fully rested, record-breaking closer at the ready, this game should have been a cakewalk. Instead, it was mildly unnerving through the first seven, before turning into a bonafide nailbiter in the ninth.
Santana was his usual brilliant self, allowing one run on one walk and six hits in six innings, but ran up his pitch count and ran out of gas, thanks in part to 10 strikeouts. Strikeouts, of course, are wonderful, but they’re not democratic, and they generally take more pitches out of an arm. But Santana needed those swings and misses to squeeze out of some tight situations, including one compounded by a missed popup by Ramon Castro.
While Johan was mowing down the Nats, the Mets bats were lukewarm against Washington starter Scott Olsen, who scattered nine hits and two walks in his six innings of work. The Mets did touch him for three runs (two earned), thanks to a Carlos Beltran triple, a Luis Castillo single, and a pinch-hit RBI single by Danny Murphy. They added on another run in the eighth when reliever Kip Wells walked Carlos Delgado with the bases loaded, forcing in Ramon Castro.
Generally speaking, 3-4 runs is enough for a stopper such as Santana, though he gave one back in the top of the sixth when Nick Johnson went deep. Bobby Parnell, Pedro Feliciano, and JJ Putz held the mighty Nats at bay through the 7th and 8th, setting the stage for Francisco “Stop Calling Me K-Rod” Rodriguez.
Rodriguez decided that the game had cruised long enough, and it was time for drama to keep the Citi Field fans in their seats. He started off the ninth by allowing a single to Austin Kearns and a two-run homer to Jesus Flores, cutting the Mets lead to one. But of course, the tightrope is where Rodriguez lives, and he dispatched of the next three batters in order. No small feat, as the Nats sent up a modern-day murderer’s row of Alberto Gonzalez, Alex Cintron, and Anderson Hernandez.
Hard to believe that Cintron is the best the Nats can come up with to pinch-hit in the final inning of a one-run ballgame, but I guess that’s why they’ve won just 20% of their games thus far.
Birthday boy Carlos Beltran kept his hold on the NL batting lead, going 1-for-3 with two walks; he’s hitting a cool .400.
Gary Sheffield went 1-for-3 with a walk — will that buy him another day?
Fernando Tatis, who many forgot was still on the roster, took advantage of his rare start in LF by going 2-for-3, including a walk and a double.
Luis Castillo batted in the two-spot and went 2-for-5.
The Mets’ four runs equaled their total runs scored in Santana’s three previous starts combined — and every one of his starts have been decided by one run. His ERA is 0.70 … if it were any higher, he’d likely be winless right now.
Next Mets Game
The Mets again host the Nationals on Saturday afternoon, with Mike Pelfrey going against the righthanded Ollie Perez: Daniel Cabrera. Game time is 1:10 PM.
This game worries me, because Pelfrey is coming off an elbow issue and Cabrera can, at times, be dominating.