Santana the Competitor Leads the Mets over Phils
New York - Johan Santana gave the ball to New York Mets manager Jerry Manuel on the mound in the eighth inning. He tied a career high giving up four home runs in a game to the Philadelphia Phillies and threw a season low 91 pitches. He also had a RBI double in the sixth inning that put the Mets ahead.The hit was supposed to be a bunt to move runners over which showed a part of his competitive edge. Then there was that move by Manuel, pulling Santana from a game which the Mets eventually won 6-5 in the opener of a three game series with the first place Phillies.But the talk was about Santana, and the combined seven home runs, three by the Mets and four by the Phils at Citi Field. Santana is the ace of a Mets pitching staff that is fourth in the National League. And with injuries that have taken on toll on this team, in particular to Carlos Delgado and Jose Reyes, every time Santana takes the mound it is more significant.“I just told him ‘that I feel good,’” was the explanation Santana gave to Manuel when he was removed from the game with obvious aggravation shown on his face. But there was that competitive edge that Manuel also heard when Santana said, according to Manuel, “I’m a man, I’m a man.”There has been talk that Manuel and Santana are having some differences about the pitch counts and when Santana has had enough. But every Mets fan knows, and so does the team, that they love the competitive edge their ace pitcher provides on the mound.“What he means by that I don’t know,” said Manuel regarding Santana’s comments about being a man. “He’s a competitor,” added Manuel about his ace, also dispelling any thoughts that their meeting at the mound was something more.To his credit, Santana, who is 4-0 in eight starts against the Phillies, probably believed he could go another inning. But these three games against Philadelphia are important as the Mets are in a stretch of games this week that also include three against the cross-town New York Yankees in the Bronx starting Friday evening.Santana is scheduled to pitch the final game of that series Sunday afternoon. “I’m not trying to show anybody up or anything,” said Santana when asked about being removed from the game in which he gave up home runs to Ryan Howard, Raul Ibanez, Jimmy Rollins and the last one to Chase Utley in the eighth inning.\“I just felt that I had enough stuff to battle through it,” he said. “But he thought different, he’s my skipper and I respect everything he does.” But Manuel saw the vintage Santana changeup, for a second straight start hanging to the Philly hitters who as a team lead the National League in home runs.The seven home runs combined, also long balls hit by the Mets Carlos Beltran, his team leading 8th, David Wright number 4, and Ryan Church his 2nd, was a record in the short span of Citi Field history.“He hung his pitches and when you hang those type of pitches against those hitters they are going to hit them out of the park,” said Manuel about the home runs hit by Howard, Ibanez, Rollins, and Utley. Howard hit his 18th in the fourth inning and Ibanez his 20th also in the same inning, as Santana allowed back-to-back home runs for the first time since July 17th 2008 at Cincinnati.And the four home runs given up by Santana in a game was done once before when he was a member of the Minnesota Twins on July 23, 2007 at Toronto. And that double which came on an 0-2 count, that was supposed to be a bunt, was Santana’s first RBI since last July 27th and gave the Mets a 5-4 lead in the 6th.“I really feel proud of it, because, you know I haven’t been able to do much, the hitting but tonight I think it was the difference in the game..” And at that time it was a difference because Santana once again showed his competitive edge, indeed at a time when the Mets need it.They have not been getting the offense, 28th in baseball when it comes to the home run ball. And Manuel has been utilizing a make ship lineup with all of the injuries that have also occurred to others. Fernando Tatis and Daniel Murphy have been hitting a combined .165 the past month with the absences of Delgado and Reyes.The bullpen did the rest including Pedro Feliciano who induced a double play ground ball to Ryan Howard in the eighth. And Francisco Rodriquez remained perfect saving his 16th straight game and preserving a win for Santana now 8-3 on the season.Only two strikeouts for Santana in seven innings and the home run ball may be a concern, but Citi Field with the warmer weather setting in may have suddenly become the other home run park in New York“The jury is still out,’ said Manuel about the sudden home run surge at Citi Field. “Until we feel we are healthy every game is a big game for us,” he said. And every time Santana takes the mound it is becoming more evident the type of competitive edge he brings.