Twenty months and a major shoulder surgery later, Johan Santana is a winner again.
The Mets’ ace finally got some run support from his teammates, toughing out seven innings Saturday to beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 4-3 and snap New York’s four-game losing streak.
Mike Nickeas and Andres Torres each hit a two-run single to back the two-time Cy Young Award winner, whose last victory came against Atlanta on Sept. 2, 2010, before his injury wiped out last season.
”It’s always good to get that first one out of the way,” Santana said.
Santana (1-2) allowed nine hits but gave up only three runs, striking out five and walking one in his longest outing since the surgery.
”I wouldn’t say he had his most outstanding stuff, but he battles as good as anybody,” said Nickeas, his catcher. ”Later in the game he actually got better.”
Daniel Murphy went 4 for 4 for the second four-hit game of his career and the Mets’ bullpen bounced back with two scoreless innings after blowing a late lead Friday night.
The Diamondbacks got a runner to second in both the eighth and ninth but couldn’t score the tying run. Frank Francisco struck out slugger Justin Upton with a runner on second to end it.
”We had a lot of pressure on them all day – just couldn’t get the hit,” Arizona manager Kirk Gibson said.
The Mets had scored just four runs in Santana’s first five starts this year but matched that total in the fourth inning Saturday.
Down 1-0, New York loaded the bases with one out on two singles and a walk. Nickeas singled in two runs, chasing rookie Patrick Corbin (1-1), who won his debut Monday at Miami. The 22-year-old lefty allowed four runs on five hits and two walks with two strikeouts in 3 1-3 innings.
Santana bunted the runners over to second and third against Josh Collmenter, and Torres’ two-out single gave New York a 4-1 lead.
In his previous start Sunday, Santana left with a 4-0 cushion at Colorado before New York’s bullpen squandered it.
”I know it’s been a long time for Johan. He’s been throwing the ball really well – probably should have had a couple of wins already by now,” Nickeas said. ”I’m happy to be a part of the offense that got him the first W of the year. Hopefully many more to come.”
Santana nearly let the lead slip away himself this time. He opened the fifth by allowing a single to A.J. Pollock. With runners on first and second and two outs, Paul Goldschmidt, who had struck out in his first two at-bats, hit a two-run double to pull Arizona to 4-3. Ryan Roberts, who homered earlier, flied out to end the rally.
”I stayed with it and I was able to get the out when I needed it,” Santana said.
Roberts’ solo homer in the second broke him out of a 3-for-35 slump. The third baseman didn’t start Friday and was retired as a pinch hitter. Cody Ransom had a home run and three RBIs in his place, but Roberts was back in the lineup Saturday and he responded with two hits and a walk.
”You come in and put your work in and just try to keep everything in control and in perspective,” Roberts said. ”That’s it. Everything else you can’t really control.”
With the Diamondbacks trailing by a run, Bobby Parnell struck out pinch-hitter Miguel Montero looking in the eighth. In the ninth, Francisco retired Aaron Hill on a shallow fly and then struck out Upton swinging for his sixth save in seven chances.
”We did what we’re supposed to do and stopped their offense right there,” Francisco said.
Corbin is from Clay, N.Y., a suburb of Syracuse, about 4 1/2 hours from Citi Field. He left 50 or so tickets for family and friends but they didn’t get to see him for long.
Notes: After the game, the Mets activated right-hander D.J. Carrasco from the disabled list and sent infielder Jordany Valdespin to Triple-A Buffalo. … Corbin got his first major league hit, a single off Santana in the third. Santana then singled off Corbin in the bottom half for his first hit of the season. … Mets 1B Ike Davis did not start a day after going 0 for 4 with a key error. Manager Terry Collins said the day off was to give Justin Turner some playing time and was not connected to Davis’ recent struggles. Davis was a defensive replacement in the ninth.