Commentary

Finally for Johan, it's won for the road

On night when their ace has rocky start, Mets give Santana some run support

Updated: June 16, 2010, 12:56 AM ET
By Adam Rubin | ESPNNewYork.com

CLEVELAND -- New York Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez brushed off the two-run homer he surrendered to Shelley Duncan with two out in the ninth inning Tuesday night. After all, the Mets still maintained a one-run lead and were able to preserve a rare recent victory for Johan Santana, despite the long ball.

"Did we win?" Rodriguez asked rhetorically. "I couldn't care less about the homer. They can do five homers in a row."

Santana twice had scoreless appearances on the last road trip, only to come away with a pair of no-decisions in Mets losses. This time, the left-hander was far less precise, yet he won for only the second time since April 27 as the Mets beat the Cleveland Indians 7-6 at Progressive Field.

[+] EnlargeTravis Hafner and Johan Santana
Jared Wickerham/Getty ImagesJohan Santana's early lead disappeared when Travis Hafner homered in the second inning.

"It's always good when you see these guys hitting the ball like that and putting runs on the board and getting everyone going," Santana said. "It was great. Every time you have a chance to score runs and win a game this way, it's always good."

Said manager Jerry Manuel: "He struggled a little bit early, then he started to make some pitches. We got back into the game, scored a few runs, put him on top. And I knew there was no way he was going to let the lead go from there.

"It was a good outing for him. It was good that we scored runs for him. It's time we give him an opportunity to kind of relax on the mound -- not everything is a critical pitch for him."

The Mets had been 8-18 on the road this season, but have now polished that mark against the American League's doormats by sweeping a three-game series in Baltimore and capturing the series opener in Cleveland. They moved a season-high eight games over .500 and have won nine of their past 10.

Santana surrendered a solo homer to Travis Hafner on a slider that stayed on the inner half of the plate during Cleveland's three-run second inning, but the Mets clawed back with a combination of power -- courtesy of a two-run homer from Ike Davis -- and hustle in the form of seven infield singles, one of which resulted in Jose Reyes scoring from second base on David Wright's grounder to shortstop. The Mets benefited from three Cleveland errors and other sloppiness in the field.

Reyes resolved to score on Wright's grounder to Jason Donald before even reaching third base.

"When I looked back, I saw the shortstop on the ground," Reyes said. "I said, 'He has to get up and throw to first base.' So probably I had a good chance to score there, and that happened.

"There's no doubt we use our speed. A lot of people say, 'Speed kills.' We've been using that. We got a lot of infield hits today. We have some guys who can run here. And they're using it."

As for Davis, he unsuccessfully tried to bunt toward third base because of a pronounced shift during a fifth-inning at-bat against right-hander Justin Masterson. After that attempt went foul, Davis ultimately completed the plate appearance with his eighth homer to break a 4-4 tie.

"I just felt like if I could get Jason [Bay] up with a guy in scoring position with one out in a tie ballgame, it would be a good idea," said Davis, who is hitting .344 in his last nine games. "I think that's the second attempt of my life at a base-hit bunt. It was actually a decent attempt. I was pretty happy with it, but I just need to get it fair a little more. It's been like the last eight games, I think everyone is starting to shift on me. If they're going to pull the third baseman all the way over basically to shortstop, I've got to take what they give me in certain situations and lay it down."

Santana (5-3) ultimately was charged with four runs on seven hits and two walks while striking out one batter and tossing 103 pitches.

Wright, who went 3-for-5 and drove in three runs, now has 50 RBIs this season. He entered the day two RBIs behind Atlanta's Troy Glaus for the National League lead.

After the latest victory, players already were eyeing a weekend series against the Yankees -- and relishing the possibility that both teams could be in first place by the weekend.

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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