PHILADELPHIA _ As much at the Mets broke the bank with Johan Santana for October, they also did it for nights against the Philadelphia Phillies.
To see October, the Mets must beat the Phillies, and that was no small factor in their $137.5 million investment in the two-time Cy Young Award winner.
“He did what he had to do,â€™â€™ Mets manager Willie Randolph said of Santanaâ€™s 10-strikeout performance in last nightâ€™s 6-4 victory over the Phillies.
The victory was the Metsâ€™ fourth straight, and third in four games against the Phillies.
Donâ€™t forget, the Phillies won 12 of 18 against the Mets last season.
“Itâ€™s what we are looking for from him,â€™â€™ Randolph said. “We expect him to do that kind of stuff.â€™â€™
What Santana did was labor with his money pitch _ his change-up _ early, but adjusted to keep arguably one of the best hitting National League teams off balance.
“My change-up was OK,â€™â€™ Santana said. “I was able to do my job and mix my pitches.â€™â€™
Santana has been accused of falling in love with his change-up, and you canâ€™t abandon your true love.
“Thatâ€™s his pitch,â€™â€™ catcher Brian Schneider said. “I donâ€™t care if he bounced a couple. He had to keep throwing it and figure it out.â€™â€™
While Santana fought for the feel of his change, he also toyed with the Phillies with his slider, and thatâ€™s the pitch Schneider said he got most of his ten strikeouts.
However, to make the slider work, Santana used his fastball as the set-up pitch.
“The whole key is my fastball,â€™â€™ Santana said. “I was able to locate my fastball and we attacked them.â€™â€™
Santana, booed in his Shea debut, gave up three runs on four hits in seven innings.
One of the runs was on a Chase Utley homer.
“Heâ€™s going to give up home runs,â€™â€™ David Wright said in defense of his pitcher. “But, give the hitters credit. â€¦ Heâ€™s been phenomenal. Heâ€™s kept us in every game.â€™â€™
Of all Santanaâ€™s attributes, perseverance and his faith in his abilities might be his strongest.
Santana just doesnâ€™t give in.
“Heâ€™s going to pitch his game,â€™â€™ Randolph said. “Heâ€™s one of the best. Heâ€™ll be true to himself and attack the hitters. â€¦ He doesnâ€™t deviate from what he wants to do.â€™â€™
The Mets entered the game wanting to set the tone against Cole Hamels, and took an early lead when Ryan Church walked and scored on Wrightâ€™s double.
The Mets increased their lead to 2-0 in the third when Jose Reyes walked, stole second, and scored on Wrightâ€™s triple, a sinking line drive that skipped past center fielder Jayson Werth.
After Utleyâ€™s homer in the seventh, the Mets seemingly broke the game open with three in the eighth on Carlos Delgadoâ€™s run-scoring grounder to first that Ryan Howard bobbled, and RBI hits by Angel Pagan and Schneider.
However, these being the Mets, nothing is easy. The Phillies responded with three of their own in the bottom of the inning on Greg Dobbsâ€™ pinch-hit homer off Aaron Heilman.
Delgado added a sacrifice fly in the ninth and Billy Wagner closed it for the save.
“You want to get off on the right foot,â€™â€™ Wagner said about winning the first game of the series.
“The first game and the last are always the toughest.â€™â€™
So, does that mean today will be a breeze with Oliver Perez?