The New York Mets’ starting pitching has been an adventure this season, and manager Jerry Manuel is already hinting about making changes to his rotation.
Fortunately for Manuel, there’s still one starter he knows he can count on.
Johan Santana will look to continue his nearly flawless start Wednesday afternoon, but he’ll also be looking for revenge against the only team - and only pitcher - to beat him as the Mets and visiting Florida Marlins play the decisive finale of their three-game series.
New York’s second through fifth starters have a combined 6.64 ERA in 16 outings - leaving Manuel to speculate about possible changes - but its ace has lived up to his billing. Santana (3-1, 0.70 ERA) has been the NL’s best starting pitcher, yielding two earned runs in 25 2-3 innings while striking out 37.
Florida (12-8) will be sending out its top starter also, as well as the only pitcher who’s outdueled Santana. New York (9-11) didn’t score a run off Josh Johnson (2-0, 2.20) while Santana was in the game April 12 at Florida, and two unearned runs over seven innings were the difference in a 2-1 Mets loss despite Santana striking out 13.
Johnson, meanwhile, improved to 5-0 with a 1.59 ERA in six starts against the Mets.
The two-time Cy Young award winner got back in the win column in his last two starts. Santana limited Milwaukee on five hits over seven innings in a 1-0 victory on April 18, then allowed a run over six innings while striking out 10 Friday in a 4-3 win over Washington, snapping New York’s four-game losing streak.
“I’m always up a challenge. It was a big challenge for us tonight after losing four games in a row,” Santana said. “You want to stop everything right there, and I knew I have to do something, you know, to make that happen.”
Prior to the loss earlier this month, Santana was 5-0 with a 1.83 ERA in five starts against Florida.
While the Mets had a four-game skid heading into Santana’s last start, the Marlins were dealing with a more troubling slide heading into their game at Citi Field on Tuesday. Florida had scored just 16 runs while losing seven in a row, a disturbing reversal in its play after winning 11 of 12 to start the season.
Jorge Cantu made sure the losing streak wouldn’t continue. He hit a two-run homer off starter Livan Hernandez in the fourth and added a three-run shot off reliever Sean Green in the seventh to lift the Marlins to a 7-4 comeback victory.
“I hope with this win we’re going to start rolling again,” said Cantu, who’s hitting .357 with team highs of five homers and 17 RBIs. “We really needed to get out of this thing.”
Cantu’s production is even more critical with shortstop Hanley Ramirez sidelined with an injured right hand. Ramirez had to miss Tuesday’s game after being hit by a pitch on Monday, and manager Fredi Gonzalez says he’s “50-50” to play Wednesday.
Ramirez is 2-for-15 (.133) against Santana while Cantu is 5-for-23 (.217) with eight strikeouts.
Johnson followed up his complete game against the Mets by giving up six runs in six innings at Washington, but pitched considerably better Friday against Philadelphia. He gave up three hits over seven innings and struck out eight, but closer Matt Lindstrom imploded in the ninth as Florida lost 7-3.