Count me among the pessimists who didn't expect much from Johan Santana this season. Others who have undergone anterior capsule surgery on their throwing shoulder have not fared very well upon returning to the mound. Coupled with Santana's advancing age and pre-injury velocity decline, chances of a successful comeback seemed slim. However, he has done his best so far this season to sway the skeptics. Today's performance marked his fifth solid start in six tries, and was also his longest outing of the season in both innings (7) and pitches (108). He led the Mets out of a short-but-ugly four-game losing streak that marred this past week.
Santana has never been mistaken for a ground-ball pitcher, but his fly-ball tendencies were at an extreme today. He recorded 14 of 16 non-strikeout outs on fly balls, managing to allow just one home run in the process. The disgustingly-tattooed Ryan Roberts hit a solo shot in the second inning. Santana also allowed a two-run double to Paul Goldschmidt in the fifth inning. He wasn't exactly dominant -- he did give up nine hits -- but he managed to churn through seven innings at a time when no one has much confidence in the Mets' bullpen.
Speaking of the bullpen, Bobby Parnell and Frank Francisco each pitched a scoreless inning in relief of Santana. And each allowed a baserunner and recorded a strikeout in his inning. Parnell K'd Miguel Montero in seemingly effortless fashion, pouring high heat above Montero's upper-cut swing, much like Tim Byrdak did last night. Francisco avoided the fans' wrath by striking out Justin Upton to end the game with a runner on second base.
The Mets scored all of their runs in the fourth inning. Mike Nickeas hit a two-run single with the bases loaded to chase ineffective Diamondbacks starter Patrick Corbin. After a successful sacrifice bunt by Santana, Andres Torres came through with a two-run single of his own off newly-minted reliever Josh Collmenter. It was an otherwise quiet day for the Mets' bats, although Daniel Murphy went 4-for-4. The Mets have not hit a home run since Josh Thole did the deed against Jamie Moyer last Sunday at Coors Field.
R.A. Dickey starts Sunday afternoon as the Mets try to start a winning streak. His Diamondbacks counterpart is groundballing righty Trevor Cahill.
Big winners: Frank Francisco +15.6%, Kirk Nieuwenhuis +12.3%
Big losers: Ruben Tejada -9.9%, Scott Hairston -7.0%
Teh aw3s0mest play: Mike Nickeas two-run single in the fourth inning +17.1%
Teh sux0rest play: Paul Goldschmidt two-run double in the fifth inning -18.3%
Total pitcher WPA: +39.0%
Total batter WPA: +11.0%
GWRBI!: Andres Torres two-run single in the fourth inning