A pair of former Cy Young Award winners will square off Thursday afternoon at Citi Field as Santana and the Mets will try to make it three wins in four games against Carpenter and the NL Central-leading Cardinals.
Santana (8-5, 3.22 ERA) hasn’t been quite as dominant as he was last season, when he had a 2.53 ERA in his first year in Queens, but he’s still provided New York (36-34) with a quality start 10 times in 14 appearances.
The Mets’ offense, however, hasn’t given its ace much assistance. New York has provided Santana with an average of 3.63 runs, among the worst support of any qualifying starter in the majors.
Santana gave up nine runs against the Yankees in a 15-0 loss on June 14 - the worst start of his career - but while he rebounded Saturday against Tampa Bay, he was saddled with another loss while getting little help. Santana gave up two runs and three hits over 7 1-3 innings, but the Mets fell 3-1 to the Rays.
“Johan was back to normal. I didn’t think it would be a thing that would last a long time with him,” manager Jerry Manuel said. “I felt very confident that he would have a good outing.”
The 2004 and 2006 AL Cy Young winner will hope his offense helps him as much as it supported Fernando Nieve(notes) on Wednesday. David Wright(notes) went 4 for 4 and Ryan Church(notes) and Fernando Tatis(notes) combined for five RBIs as the Mets scored a season-high 11 runs in a shutout of St. Louis despite being without injured stars Carlos Beltran(notes), Gary Sheffield(notes) and Jose Reyes.
“I like how Jerry put it. ‘Each win takes us a game off the schedule and gets us one game closer to getting some of those guys back,’” Wright said of his injury-ravaged club.
New York should get a much stiffer test when it faces Carpenter (5-1, 1.53) for the first time since opening day of the 2007 season. Carpenter gave up five runs over six innings in that 6-1 loss, the only game he pitched that season before undergoing Tommy John surgery that kept him out until last July.
Now healthy after recovering from a strained ribcage muscle that sidelined him for a month, Carpenter is looking as good as he did when he won the 2005 NL Cy Young Award. He threw a season-high 105 pitches in his last start Saturday at Kansas City, giving up three hits and a run while striking out six in a 7-1 win.
“I felt like early on I was working real hard and I didn’t have to,” Carpenter told the Cardinals’ official Web site. “I felt like as the game went along, I started settling in and got better, stronger.”
Carpenter has received less run support than Santana - 2.76 runs per game - but he really hasn’t needed it. Opponents are hitting .163 against Carpenter, an average that would be the second-lowest in the majors if he’d pitched enough innings to quality.
Carpenter is 2-0 with a 0.40 ERA in three afternoon starts.