If there were any doubts about Johan Santana following his poor outing in Atlanta, he did his best to completely erase them against the Marlins tonight. Over six-and-two-thirds innings, Santana was dominant. He struck out eleven Marlins, his highest tally since August 2, 2010, against the Braves.
While Santana's fastball sat at 88 or 89 mph, Santana had no problem keeping the Marlins' hitters off balance with his excellent changeup and the occasional slider. He walked only two in the start, and 67 of his 105 pitchers were strikes. Of the strikes, thirteen were of the swinging variety. Four starts into the season, Santana's struck out 12.0 batters per nine and sports a 3.00 ERA.
Santana did give up a pair of hard hits with two outs and nobody on in the seventh inning, the second of which was a Gaby Sanchez double to left field that plated Giancarlo Stanton from first base. If Mike Baxter, Ruben Tejada, and Josh Thole had combined for even a decent relay throw and catch on the play, Stanton was out by a mile. Tejada's throw got by Thole, and Stanton scored easily.
Josh Johnson was just about as good as Santana, striking out nine and walking only one in his six-and-two-thirds innings of work. With runners on second and third and two outs in the fourth inning, he should have given up the first run of the game. Daniel Murphy broke for the plate when Johnson's pitch in the dirt got by John Buck, but the Irish Hammer was called out by the ump despite sliding in well underneath Johnson's tag.
The Mets finally scored in the seventh inning on a rather unique series of events. Johnson walked the last batter he faced, and the Marlins called upon three relief pitchers, each of whom walked the first batter he faced to give the Mets a free run. It would have been great to see Zach Lutz break the game open with the bases still loaded, but he struck out to end the inning.
In the bottom of the eighth, the Mets got a pair of singles by Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Daniel Murphy. Both singles may have been outs had Gaby Sanchez not been playing the line, but since he was, the Mets had runners on first and third with one out. David Wright struck out, but Lucas Duda drilled the ball up the middle. It hit Edward Mujica so hard that he had to leave the game. It was officially an infield single that scored the go-ahead run. It was the only run the Mets would need to win the game.
Ramon Ramirez, Jon Rauch, and Frank Francisco were all very effective in their appearances. Francisco was the only one to allow a baserunner, but he secured the victory without any significant problems in ninth inning.
It's also worth noting that Nieuwenhuis made an excellent catch on the first play of the game as Jose Reyes - playing his first game against the Mets - drilled a ball to left-center field. It wouldn't have been a home run, but Kirk made a hell of a catch to thwart Reyes' only threatening batted ball of the evening.
The series continues tomorrow at 7:10 pm with R.A. Dickey on the hill for the Mets and Mark Buerhle starting for the Marlins.
Big winners: Josh Thole, +24.8% WPA, Lucas Duda, +24.1% WPA
Big losers: Zach Lutz, -11.5% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Lucas Duda's go-ahead single in the eighth, +26.3% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Gaby Sanchez's rib-eye double in the seventh, -23.8% WPA
Total pitcher WPA: +45.8% WPA
Total batter WPA: +4.2% WPA
GWRBI!: The Dude
Nice job by sj10689; his effort in the game thread embiggens us all.
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