Commentary

Mets call up kids, lean on veterans

Santana, K-Rod, Francoeur deliver victory hours after team shakes up the roster

Updated: August 8, 2010, 12:46 AM ET
By Adam Rubin | ESPNNewYork.com

PHILADELPHIA -- On a day the New York Mets added youth to their roster, hoping to inject energy and counter a freefall, Johan Santana upstaged the newcomers and the rest of his teammates.

Right fielder Jeff Francoeur, poised to be benched as a result of Saturday's transactions, had a well-timed home run, too.

Santana carried a no-hit bid two outs into the sixth inning and Francoeur delivered an opposite-field solo homer a half-inning later as the Mets beat the Philadelphia Phillies 1-0 on Saturday night at Citizens Bank Park.

Francisco Rodriguez recorded his third five-out save of the season, with manager Jerry Manuel opting to use the closer for that length because K-Rod had not worked the previous three days. Rodriguez had inherited two runners from Santana. The Phillies ultimately loaded the bases with two outs before pinch-hitter Ross Gload grounded out on a full-count changeup to second baseman Ruben Tejada.

[+] EnlargeJohan Santana
AP Photo/H. Rumph JrJohan Santana didn't allow a hit for 5 2/3 innings.

Tejada, one of the two new additions to the roster, bounced the throw to Ike Davis, but the rookie first baseman scooped it.

"I was thinking too much," Tejada said.

Before this season, Rodriguez had not recorded a save of at least five outs since 2005. He labeled this one his most challenging save of the season. Rodriguez has now tossed 8 1/3 scoreless innings over his past seven appearances; he has allowed only one hit during that span.

"In those situations, I want to be there," Rodriguez said. "Whatever happens -- in a good way or a bad way -- I always want to live at the edge. I'm not afraid to be in those situations."

The Mets returned to .500 after dipping under that mark for the first time since May 23 with a series-opening loss to Philadelphia. During Friday's game, relievers Bobby Parnell and Pedro Feliciano could not hold a 2-1 lead for starter Jon Niese in the eighth inning.

Saturday began with backup infielder Alex Cora getting released, 21-year-old outfielder Fernando Martinez and the 20-year-old Tejada getting promoted from Triple-A Buffalo, and outfielder Jesus Feliciano being returned to the minors.

Tejada turned in multiple stellar fielding plays, including one early to support Santana. Ex-Met Wilson Valdez pushed a hard bunt to the first-base side of the mound, past Santana. Tejada -- who will see regular action at second base, relegating veteran Luis Castillo to the bench, according to Manuel -- charged and threw to first base narrowly in time to retire Valdez.

Santana held the Phillies hitless until Placido Polanco's clean, two-out single to center in the bottom of the sixth. Polanco nearly did not bat that inning. The preceding batter, Raul Iba&ntidle;ez, reached first base on a wild-pitch third strike.

"I felt that we had a long way to go," Santana said about Saturday's no-hit bid. "All it takes is for you to throw one pitch. And against a team like that, you know at some point they're going to get a hit. I was trying to go one pitch at a time, one hitter at a time and try not to throw that many pitches and try to get deeper in the game."

In Santana's last outing in Philly, he had been rocked May 2 for a career-high 10 runs.

Only three times in Santana's career has he completed six innings with a no-hit bid intact. All three times came with Minnesota. All three times the opposition's first hit came with none out in the seventh.

Francoeur, who is poised to be displaced by Martinez in right field against right-handed pitching, delivered the lone run when he led off the seventh inning against Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels with a homer to right field.

Francoeur also had delivered a decisive ninth-inning homer in Atlanta on the last stop of the trip. Still, he did strike out with the bases loaded and two out in the eighth inning Saturday and is 10-for-55 since the All-Star break. Francoeur might not start again until Wednesday, when the Mets face Colorado Rockies left-hander Jeff Francis, even with Manuel considering resting Carlos Beltran on Sunday.

Francoeur acknowledged he had a difficult day until the homer. He was close with Cora, who texted him after the homer. And Francoeur described his meeting with Manuel to discuss diminished playing time as tough -- far tougher than a similar conversation when Beltran returned from the DL. That time, Francoeur's diminished playing time didn't last long because Jason Bay suffered a concussion.

"Just the whole day in general -- from waking up today and finding out [Cora] was released, to getting here and having my talk with Jerry about the situation that's at hand right now -- there's not much I can do about it other than go out there and try to put up hits and play good defense when I'm in there," Francoeur said. "Whenever I play."

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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