Commentary

Santana's stumble dooms Mets in Philly

After Saturday's gem by Halladay, New York's ace dropped ball in Game 3

Updated: May 3, 2010, 11:03 AM ET
By Adam Rubin | ESPNNewYork.com

PHILADELPHIA -- Despite the arrival of Roy Halladay in the division, Johan Santana maintained in spring training that he had retained the label as the National League East's top pitcher. That's certainly looking off-base now.

A day after Halladay shut out the Mets, Santana received the worst drubbing of his career. The Philadelphia Phillies, who battered Mike Pelfrey for six runs in the fourth inning Saturday, chased Santana in what became a nine-run fourth Sunday night. The Phillies won the rubber game 11-5 to end the Mets' five-day run atop the division.

[+] EnlargeJohan Santana
Hunter Martin/Getty ImagesJohan Santana recorded one of the worst starts in recent Mets history on Sunday.

The 10 runs allowed by Santana surpassed the nine he surrendered last season at Yankee Stadium for the most in his career.

"My fastball was moving all over the place tonight. ... Just that inning it got really, really bad," Santana said. "It started going all over the place."

Already shaky, Santana's undoing came with two out in the fourth, when 47-year-old opposing pitcher Jamie Moyer fouled off the ace's first full-count offering, then walked to force in a run. Shane Victorino followed with a grand slam.

When Chase Utley went deep two batters later for his second extra-base hit of the inning -- and the fourth homer allowed by Santana, matching a career high -- manager Jerry Manuel pulled the ace. The last time a Mets pitcher allowed 10 or more runs while getting fewer than Santana's 11 outs: Calvin Schiraldi and Joe Sambito on June 11, 1985. Schiraldi allowed 10 runs in 1 1/3 innings, and Sambito allowed 10 in three innings as the Phillies drubbed the Mets 26-7.

"It all happened so fast, and I don't think I comprehended it until we got in the dugout," Mets right fielder Jeff Francoeur said. "It is what it is. It's one game. It was one inning. I'll still take Santana on the mound any day of the week. How many times is that going to happen? I've never seen it happen. We know we can play with them. We were up with our best guy on the mound and we just couldn't get it done. We're still confident in what we can do. We didn't win two out of three, but we still feel real good about what we've got as a team."

Said third baseman David Wright: "You'd like to think that he's a machine and never makes mistakes, but he's human and he's going to go out there and have some bad outings."

Moyer had received a bases-loaded walk only twice before in his career: in 1988, against Montreal Expos right-hander Floyd Youmans, and last season while facing Oliver Perez.

The Mets, who won 10 of 11 after losing the season's first four series, lost two straight to the Phillies to close this series. And, arguably, they have a more difficult task when they arrive in Cincinnati for a three-game series that opens Monday, since shaky Perez and John Maine face the Reds in the opening two games.

The night had started so positively, too. Wright belted a three-run homer in the first inning off Moyer -- the third baseman's 13th homer at Citizens Bank Park, more than at any other stadium as a visitor. Santana surrendered solo homers to Placido Polanco and Ryan Howard the following half inning, but Rod Barajas restored a three-run cushion in the top of the fourth. Barajas, who had four homers as a Phillies player in 122 at-bats in 2007, delivered a two-run homer for a 5-2 lead. It was his third homer of the series and seventh in seven games in Philly since leaving the team.

Santana, though, unraveled in the bottom of the fourth, and the Mets had no hits -- and only one baserunner, on an eighth-inning walk to Jason Bay -- after Philadelphia's nine-run frame.

"We missed an opportunity today," Wright said. "That's going to happen over the course of a long season. We knew coming in they're a good team. They're one of the premier teams in the National League. To get to where we want to go, we're going to have to go through Philadelphia. There's no question about it."

Said Manuel: "It's tough. There's no doubt about it. It's our rival. We came in playing pretty good baseball. We still think we are playing decent baseball. Those two big innings [the fourth innings Saturday and Sunday] really just took a lot out of us. That's a good team. That's the defending National League champions and so forth. Two innings out of however many we played caused some heartache."

Adam Rubin covers the Mets for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.

Adam Rubin has covered the Mets since 2003. He's a graduate of Mepham High School on Long Island and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He joined ESPNNewYork after spending 10 years at the New York Daily News.
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