Commentary

Jerry pulls Santana; streaks don't stand

Mets squander another outing by ace, who exits after eight innings despite breezing

Updated: May 29, 2010, 8:23 PM ET
By Adam Rubin | ESPNNewYork.com

MILWAUKEE -- Manager Jerry Manuel insisted he had no hesitation about removing Johan Santana after eight less-than-taxing innings, with the left-hander's pitch count at 105 in a scoreless duel with Milwaukee's Yovani Gallardo.

With Santana pulled, three Mets streaks abruptly ended Friday night at Miller Park:

[+] EnlargeJohan Santana
Jeff Hanisch/US PresswireIn his past four starts, Johan Santana has allowed a total of three earned runs in 29 2/3 innings -- with one win to show for it.

A 35-inning scoreless streak;

An 86-inning streak without surrendering a homer;

And a five-game winning streak.

Right-handed reliever Ryota Igarashi served up a two-run homer to Corey Hart on a 1-1 split-fingered fastball with two out in the ninth as the Brewers beat the Mets 2-0 in the series opener.

"That's unfortunate, because Johan was brilliant tonight," Manuel said. "He was outstanding, and so was their pitcher."

So why take out Santana, who had retired the final 11 Brewers he faced?

Manuel reasoned that Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder seemed to be on Santana's pitches throughout the night, and Fielder was due up first in the bottom of the ninth. The manager also cited Santana's double while batting in the eighth.

"Once he had doubled, fought through the eighth, I didn't think it would be a good move," Manuel said of Santana's continuing. "And Fielder, I think, was seeing him pretty good anyway. I didn't want to chance him to lose that ballgame out there after the way he had performed."

Left-hander Pedro Feliciano entered and retired Fielder on a grounder to third base. Manuel then summoned Igarashi on the reliever's 31st birthday to face the righty-hitting Ryan Braun.

Braun narrowly reached on an infield single, when shortstop Jose Reyes made a diving stop of a grounder to his left but was just late on the throw to first base. Casey McGehee popped out to first baseman Ike Davis before Hart took Igarashi deep with two out.

"I completely missed on where I wanted to throw it today," Igarashi said through an interpreter about the decisive splitter to Hart.

Said Santana: "At that point right there, Jerry decided to bring in Feliciano, but I was fine. ... He decided to go to the bullpen and that's about it.

"The way everything was going -- the situation, the atmosphere, everything -- you don't want to come out of the game, for sure," Santana continued. "At the same time, we were playing baseball and trying to win the ballgame."

The eight-inning contribution by Santana was the longest by a Mets starter this season, leaving only the Pittsburgh Pirates without a performance of that length. The Mets were bidding to match the franchise record for consecutive shutouts at four, which was set in September 1969. The staff's 35-inning scoreless streak was the longest since that stretch 31 years ago -- when the staff produced 42 straight scoreless innings.

Santana has only one win in his past four starts despite allowing a combined three earned runs.

"I guess it was our turn to get shut out for once," right fielder Jeff Francoeur said. "The thing that's frustrating, though, is we need to win ballgames when Santana is on the mound, especially when he pitches the way he did tonight."

Gallardo, who tossed Friday's shutout, twice lost to the Mets 1-0 last season. He was in trouble in the second inning when the Mets loaded the bases with none out, but Reyes hit into a fielder's choice that forced Rod Barajas at the plate. Alex Cora followed with a 4-6-3 double play.

In the ninth, Angel Pagan was called out on strikes by Jeff Nelson to strand two Mets. Pagan vehemently disputed the plate umpire's decision.

The Mets, who arrived in Milwaukee at 5 a.m. ET after a 5-1 homestand against the Yankees and Phillies, fell to a National League-worst 6-15 this season on the road. They are 19-9 at Citi Field.

"I have no clue," Francoeur said, trying to explain the disparity. "It is frustrating. I don't know if we're that much more comfortable at home or what. We've got to find a way to score runs, especially on a night like tonight. Find a way to score one. I mean, the way Santana is pitching, we felt like that's all we needed."

As for the end of the scoreless streak, which included three straight shutouts against the Phillies, Santana concluded: "As long as we win games, that's all that matters. Either you shut out the team, or win by one run or 10 runs -- as long as we win, that's all we care about. We had a nice run. Tonight we did a great job, but it wasn't good enough to win another game."

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

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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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