Pitching duel in the Florida heat as Mets fall to Fish

JOHAN Santana struck out 13 but Josh Johnson matched him pitch-for-pitch as the Florida Marlins beat the Mets 2-1 to take the series.

One big timely error cost the Mets a chance to improved their record to 4-2, but it was all about the pitching on Easter Sunday as both aces brought their best stuff to the hill.

Santana gave up the game's only two runs - both unearned - in the 2nd inning as he fanned 13 and gave up three hits over seven innings of work.

Johnson was even more impressive. Impressive is probably being modest. He was flat out filthy, giving up just five hits, walking none and striking out seven on 113 pitches.

Johnson was one strike away from his first ever complete game shutout and such was his  dominance, he only got to a three-ball count twice.

He also threw first-pitch strikes to 22 of the 31 batters he faced, every bit as good as his Cy Young counterpart who did it to 18 of the 26 Fish he encountered.

In fact, with baserunners at a premium, it comes as no real surprise that the game lasted just 2:04.

The Marlins were on the board first thanks to the first real rookie error we have seen Daniel Murphy make in 2009.

As it turned out, this would be all the Marlins and Johnson needed.

Santana had struck out the first two men of the inning and walked Jeremy Hermida on a pitch up and away.

Cody Ross then hit what seemed to be a routine fly ball to left field, but Murphy dropped the ball as he backed onto the warning track, allowing Hermida to score from first because he was running on contact with two down.

Ronnie Paulino also took advantage of the two-error, driving home Ross from second on an RBI single.

From there on, the Mets were always chasing the game, but they could not get anything at all going against Johnson.

The Mets got their first hit in the top of the 6th inning on Luis Castillo's broken-bat single and he advanced to second on Santana's sacrifice bunt to give the Mets their first base runner in scoring position, but Reyes grounded out to first to end the inning.

David Wright then hit a one-out single in the 7th inning but Carlos Delgado grounded into the over-shift on the right side of the infield.

It was a tailor-made double play, but Bonifacio booted the groundball and Uggla pulled Helms off the bag to leave everybody safe.

But Johnson didn't panic and he got the next batter, Carlos Beltran, to ground back to the mound to start a 1-6-3 double play - the Marlins first of the season - to finish the inning.

The Mets almost had something going in the 8th inning when Ryan Church led off the frame with a double to left field and Castillo dropped down a one-out sacrifice to move him 90 feet closer to home.

Pinch-hitting Jeremy Reed walked to putmen on the corners, but Reyes chopped the first pitch he saw back to Johnson who retired the side.

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