New York’s acquisition of Johan Santana was one of the biggest moves in the majors this past offseason, and the left-hander was expected to make the Mets one of the most feared teams in baseball.
St. Louis’ signing of free agent starter Kyle Lohse in March received significantly less publicity, but he has been one of the majors’ top pitchers, leading the Cardinals into postseason contention.
Santana and Lohse square off Sunday as the Mets and Cardinals wrap up their three-game set at Shea Stadium.
New York (56-48) acquired Santana (8-7, 3.05 ERA) from Minnesota in February, hoping he could lead the Mets to the postseason after an embarrassing September collapse in 2007.
While New York has a one-game division lead over second-place Florida and Philadelphia, the Mets have won only two of Santana’s last nine starts.
The two-time Cy Young Award winner has posted a 2.84 ERA in those outings, but has also received an average of only 3.63 runs of support in that stretch.
Santana got enough support from his offense Tuesday against Philadelphia, but his bullpen let him down. He gave up two runs and eight hits through eight innings and left with a 5-2 lead, but the Phillies scored six in the ninth as New York lost 8-6.
This will be Santana’s first career start against the Cardinals (58-48).
While the Mets have had trouble winning with Santana on the mound, St. Louis has won 11 of Lohse’s last 13 starts with the right-hander posting a 2.39 ERA over that span. Lohse (12-2, 3.35 ERA) has also won his last nine decisions since a loss at Colorado on May 8.
On Tuesday against Milwaukee, Lohse allowed three runs and seven hits with seven strikeouts in eight innings, but the Cardinals went on to lose 4-3.
In his only start of the season against the Mets on June 30, Lohse gave up one run and five hits in seven innings of a 7-1 win. He is 1-1 with a 4.28 ERA in five career starts versus New York.
The Cardinals snapped a season-worst five-game losing streak with a 10-8, 14-inning win over the Mets on Saturday. Albert Pujols hit a go-ahead, two-run homer in the 14th, his first home run since he connected for No. 300 of his career on July 4. St. Louis is three games back of the Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee for the NL Central lead.
Pujols finished with five hits Saturday, while Skip Schumaker had a career-best six hits, becoming the first Cardinals player to have six hits in a game since Terry Moore on Sept. 5, 1935, against Boston.
“We got the win, man, that’s what it’s about,” said Pujols, who was 2-for-19 during the slump. “To stop our losing streak is huge. Sometimes things like this get a ballclub going.”
For the Mets, the lost was only their fourth in 18 games. They have not dropped a series since losing two of three to the New York Yankees June 27-29.
New York left 16 runners on base Saturday, and went 1-for-16 with runners in scoring position.
“We had chances, we just couldn’t push it across,” Mets manager Jerry Manuel said. “It was just one of those nights.”
Center fielder Carlos Beltran homered twice Saturday, and is batting .395 (15-for-38) with six home runs and 16 RBIs in his last 10 games. He is 7-for-15 (.467) with a homer and a double in his career against Lohse.
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