NEW YORK -- Manager Terry Collins knows what the New York Mets are going to get every time Johan Santana or R.A. Dickey takes the mound. However, Collins also knows the rest of the starters have to begin following suit if the Mets are going to continue their unexpected ascent into playoff contention.
Santana threw six scoreless innings in his best start since his no-hitter, and Lucas Duda hit a two-run homer just beyond the reach of Baltimore right fielder Steven Pearce as the Mets beat the Orioles 5-0 Tuesday night in front of 32,587 at Citi Field.
Santana (5-3) wasn't as dominant as Dickey, who threw his second consecutive one-hitter in Monday's 5-0 win over the Orioles, but the left-hander -- who allowed 10 runs in 10 innings in his first two starts after he threw the Mets' first no-hitter June 1 -- looked every bit the team's co-ace. Santana surrendered just four hits and two walks while striking out five in a 101-pitch outing.
Dickey and Santana are a combined 16-4 with a 2.46 ERA with 21 "quality starts" (at least six innings pitched with three or fewer earned runs allowed) in 28 starts this year. They've allowed just 133 hits and 49 walks while striking out 187 in 183 innings. In addition, the team is 9-4 when Santana or Dickey starts immediately after a Mets loss.
"I think R.A. is doing an incredible job," Santana said. "It's good to see -- he's making history. I'm just trying to follow up and trying to do my job and hoping we get into that routine or in that groove where we give the team a chance. I think that's the most important thing. And not just me or R.A., but the whole starting rotation is trying to do that, trying to go as deep as we can in the game."
The other seven pitchers to make starts for the Mets--including Dillon Gee, Jonathon Niese and Chris Young, the current Nos. 3-4-5 members of the rotation -- are a combined 11-13 with a 4.32 ERA and 23 quality starts in 41 outings.
"We are very, very fortunate, knock on wood, we haven't had any huge losing streaks because of (Dickey and Santana), because they stop it," Collins said. "We need them, and we're going to need them throughout the summer. That's why I say those other guys, when they start giving us quality innings like they can ... if we're going to compete, which we plan on doing throughout this hot summer, we've got to get all five guys, get them going together."
Santana navigated out of trouble in the fourth, when he stranded runners at second and third by striking out Mark Reynolds and Pearce, and the sixth, when he induced Reynolds to pop up to short with two on and two outs.
"That no-hitter took it out of him," Collins said. "I'm not sure the adrenaline didn't wipe him out for a week. I thought he was much sharper today. He was really good."
Bobby Parnell, Miguel Batista and Jon Rauch each threw a scoreless inning to preserve the Mets' National League-best eighth shutout.
The Mets scored two runs apiece in the sixth and seventh to blow open a close game. Duda's 11th homer gave the Mets a 3-0 lead, and Jordany Valdespin -- who had scored on Duda's round-tripper -- laced a two-run single in the seventh. Valdespin and Duda each had two hits.
Matt Wieters had two doubles and a walk for the Orioles, who were 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position a night after they didn't get a runner past first base against Dickey. The Orioles have been shut out in consecutive games for the first time since April 20-21, 2005, and have scored just nine runs in their past five games.
"It's just two games, and they pitched well," Wieters said. "If you can get guys to go out there and give you those kind of outings, it's going to be tough."
Orioles starter Tommy Hunter (3-4) took the loss after allowing five runs on seven hits and one walk with three strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings.
NOTES: Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts was caught stealing to end the third inning. It was his first stolen-base attempt since he swiped two bases May 16, 2011. That was also the last game of the 2011 season for Roberts, who missed more than a year due to a concussion and returned to the Orioles on June 12. ... Orioles manager Buck Showalter admitted that outfielder Nolan Reimold (herniated neck disk) may need surgery. Before he went on the disabled list May 4, Reimold was hitting .313 with five homers and 10 RBI in 67 at-bats. ... Veteran right-hander Joel Pineiro (sore right shoulder) allowed one run in five innings in a rehab start for the rookie-level Gulf Coast League Orioles. He has been on the disabled list at Triple-A Norfolk since May 15. ... Mets outfielder Jason Bay, on the seven-day disabled list with the concussion he suffered last Friday against the Reds, had another MRI exam Tuesday. The Mets were awaiting the results. ... Collins said he briefly considered deploying a modified four-man rotation in order to get Dickey as many starts as possible and to get Santana and Chris Young, each of whom have endured major shoulder surgeries over the past two years, some extra rest. He decided against it because he didn't want to inconvenience the Mets' other starters, Gee and Niese. He was also concerned how it would affect Dickey later in the season. "Everything looks great now -- it's June," Collins said. "Ask (Dickey) how he felt last September. He was tired. The one thing we aren't going to do is look up in August and have this guy worn out because we were bringing him back on three days' rest." Dickey went 2-2 with a 1.82 ERA in five September starts last year but averaged just 4.9 strikeouts per nine innings, by far his lowest monthly average of the year.