Commentary

Platoon paying dividends for Mets

Blanco backs Barajas' walk-off blast to down Giants again, 5-4

Updated: May 8, 2010, 9:27 PM ET
By Ian Begley | ESPNNewYork.com

MetsAP Photo/Frank Franklin IISaturday marked the fifth time in Mets history they've won back-to-back games on homers.

NEW YORK -- Mets fans were angry and anxious about the team's inability to land a top-tier catcher in the offseason.

Do you think anyone's complaining now?

Henry Blanco did his best Rod Barajas impression Saturday afternoon at Citi Field, drilling a 1-0 fastball over the left field wall in the 11th inning to give the Mets a 5-4 win over the Giants. It was the Mets' second straight walk-off victory over San Francisco. Barajas hit a game-winning homer in the bottom of the ninth Friday to give the Mets a much-needed win.

It was also the fifth time in Mets history that they've won back-to-back games on home runs, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The last time it happened was in July 2001, when Robin Ventura and Mike Piazza hit walkoff shots against the Phillies.

And you can bet it's never been done by two catchers.

"No, I've never seen that," manager Jerry Manuel said.

But he's seen plenty of walk-off wins this week: Saturday was the fifth straight game decided in the Mets' or their opponents' last at-bat.

"It was our turn to have that go our way," Manuel said.

Manuel can thank the catching platoon of Barajas and Blanco for his team winning three of those five games. Barajas, who leads the Mets with nine long balls, hit a game-winning homer in the ninth inning Tuesday in Cincinnati and again Friday night against the NL West-leading Giants.

Some thought the Mets had to settle for second-tier catchers when they signed Blanco and Barajas in the offseason after trying to land Bengie Molina and Yorvit Torrealba.

But this tandem has more than done the job.

"Those guys have done a tremendous job with the pitching staff. They've obviously gotten some big hits," Manuel said. "You don't feel like there is a drop-off. It's a great duo at this point.

"I like the guys that we've got."

So does the rest of the team, which flushed last weekend's flop in Philadelphia out of its system with two straight wins over the Giants.

Johan Santana, in particular, needed a good start to forget about his horrid outing in Philly -- in which he gave up a career-high 10 runs.

"I couldn't wait for today to get back out there," Santana said.

The Mets' $137 million man allowed four runs on eight hits in 7 2/3 innings, striking out six. He said that he and pitching coach Dan Warthen worked to tweak his delivery during the week, deciding to drop his glove in the middle of his windup to prevent the tipping of pitches, and to relax his shoulders.

"I felt much more comfortable," Santana said.

It looked like the Mets were in control with their ace cruising through seven innings.

They held a 4-2 lead in the eighth, thanks to Angel Pagan's two-run triple in the second and two RBIs from Jason Bay.

But Santana allowed back-to-back singles and a Pablo Sandoval sacrifice fly in the top of the eighth before being lifted for Fernando Nieve with two out. Nieve allowed a single to Eli Whiteside and was promptly pulled for Pedro Feliciano, who gave a game-tying RBI single to Aubrey Huff.

As the game went into the 11th, Manuel was concerned about his team getting a run across the plate. The Mets had just three hits after the fifth inning before Blanco's blast ended things.

"We hadn't swung the bat well those last few innings and I was wondering where we were going to get a run," the manager said.

No need to worry, Jerry. These days, all you have to do is look to your catcher.

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