New York (3-7) at St. Louis (7-3)

Fair Currently: St. Louis, MO
Temp: 73° F
  • Game info: 4:10 pm EDT Sat Apr 17, 2010
  • TV: FOX
Preview | Box Score | Recap

If the New York Mets are going to at least stay competitive this season, they will need Johan Santana(notes) to consistently perform at a high level.

That certainly didn’t happen in his most recent start.

The Mets hope their ace can bounce back from a disappointing performance Saturday when they continue a three-game series with the St. Louis Cardinals, who seek their fifth straight home win over New York.

Santana (1-1, 4.91 ERA) couldn’t be more different in his first two appearances this season.

On April 5, he held Florida to a run and four hits over six innings of a 7-1 victory. Six days later, the left-hander served up a pitch to Josh Willingham(notes) in the first inning that was ruled a grand slam following video review, and the Mets fell 5-2 to Washington.

“Johan’s going to have an inning here or there. It would have given us a good lift to fight our way back into the game, but we weren’t able to do it,” New York manager Jerry Manuel said.

Santana will try to avoid his second 1-2 start since joining New York (3-7) in 2008. Two years ago, he lost two of his first three appearances, but finished 16-7 with a 2.53 ERA.

Now in his 10th season, Santana is 2-0 with a 2.63 ERA in three career starts against the Cardinals, but has never pitched in St. Louis. Reigning two-time NL MVP Albert Pujols(notes) is 6 for 12 with two solo homers in his career versus the two-time AL Cy Young Award winner.

However, the Cardinals didn’t need Pujols on Friday. Felipe Lopez(notes) hit a seventh-inning grand slam, and St. Louis survived a rally in the ninth for a 4-3 win.

“I don’t try to hit home runs with the bases loaded, I just try to do my job and get it out in the outfield,” said Lopez, a .368 hitter with 93 RBIs in 94 at-bats with three men on.

Pujols went 0 for 4, dropping his average 41 points - to .359.

The loss wasted a fair effort by Mets starting pitcher Oliver Perez(notes), who walked only three while allowing a run and four hits over 6 1-3 innings. He’s issued seven bases on balls on 12 innings so far after walking 58 in 66 innings last season.

New York has lost five of six, but Manuel said his team is battling.

“It’s frustrating, there’s no doubt about it,” he said. “You have to applaud the fact we have at least in these first 10 games given ourselves a shot to win.”

Jeff Francoeur(notes) had two hits with a walk, and has hit safely in the first 10 games, four shy of the Mets’ record set by David Wright(notes) last season and tied with three other players. Francoeur is second in the NL with a .457 batting average.

New York will next face Jamie Garcia (1-0, 1.50), who starts for the Cardinals (7-3) after returning from Tommy John surgery with a solid 2010 debut.

Last Saturday, he limited Milwaukee to one run and four hits with three walks over six innings of a 7-1 rout. The left-hander underwent the elbow procedure in September 2008, and spent last season with Triple-A Memphis.

Yadier Molina(notes), who hit a three-run homer, was impressed by his batterymate.

“He’s a rookie, but he acted like a veteran,” Molina told the Cardinals’ official website. “He’s a rookie, but he doesn’t show any emotion out there.”

Garcia, who threw 95 pitches, has never faced the Mets.

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Starting Pitchers

J. Santana Tor vs. J. GarcĂ­a StL
11-9 Record 13-8
2.98 ERA 2.70
144 K 132
55 BB 64
1.18 WHIP 1.32

Scoreboard

Saturday, Apr 17