The New York Mets hope the All-Star break didn’t hamper any of the momentum they created from a nine-game winning streak.
The Mets (51-44) were the hottest team in baseball heading into the All-Star break, capping off a nine-game winning streak with a 7-0 victory over Colorado on Sunday. They are hitting .321 and have outscored opponents 54-19 during the run.
“The break,” Mets interim manager Jerry Manuel told the team’s official Web site, “is just a pause, not the end of anything.”
The stretch has revived New York’s disappointing season, and follows an 8-9 stretch immediately after Manuel replaced Willie Randolph. At the time of Randolph’s firing, the Mets were 34-35 and in a third-place tie in the division, 6 1/2 games behind first-place Philadelphia.
They’ve now moved within one-half game of the Phillies. Philadelphia is idle Thursday, meaning a 10th consecutive win would move New York into a tie atop the East.
The Mets, who haven’t led the division since April 19, are looking for their first 10-game winning streak since July 1-13, 1991.
Santana (8-7, 2.84 ERA) will try to help them get back into first place and win his second consecutive start.
Only the weather could stop the left-hander on July 9, when he allowed three hits with five strikeouts in five innings before exiting after a 42-minute rain delay in a 5-0 win over San Francisco. The two-time Cy Young Award winner broke through after going 0-4 despite a 2.48 ERA in his previous six starts.
“It was good to see him get a ‘W’ (July 9),” Manuel said. “I think he’ll run off a big streak for us.”
Santana is 1-0 with a 5.40 ERA in three career games against the Reds (46-50), two of them starts. He recorded his only win against them on May 10, yielding three runs and 10 hits with five strikeouts in six innings of a 12-6 victory. The Mets went took two of three games in that series.
Cincinnati, meanwhile, opens a season-high 10-game homestand looking to win a sixth consecutive game at Great American Ball Park.
The Reds swept Washington in a four-game series from July 3-6, before going 3-3 on a road trip leading into the All-Star break. They failed to close out that trip above .500 by losing 3-2 to Milwaukee on Sunday.
Cincinnati starter Johnny Cueto (7-9, 4.67) will likely need more help from the lineup than he got in his last outing.
The rookie right-hander gave up five runs - four earned - and eight hits with six strikeouts in 6 2-3 innings on July 9 at Chicago. The Reds offense managed only two hits in the 5-1 loss. Cueto had allowed three runs over 13 1-3 innings while winning his prior two starts.
“My fastball (velocity) was higher than before,” Cueto told the Reds’ official Web site after the loss to the Cubs. “I was locating my pitches good.”
Cueto was pounded for six runs and eight hits, including two homers, in 4 2-3 innings against the Mets on May 11 - an 8-3 loss.