Santana tops Johnson in battle of aces

Johan Santana kept Jose Reyes off the bases and the New York Mets managed just enough offense to win a tight pitchers’ duel.

Reyes went hitless in his return to Citi Field and Lucas Duda lined a tiebreaking single in the eighth inning that caromed off reliever Edward Mujica, sending New York to a 2-1 victory over the Miami Marlins on Tuesday night.

Santana and Josh Johnson zipped through the first six innings in a matchup of healthy-looking aces. Santana, coming off the shortest start of his career, struck out 11 for the Mets while Johnson whiffed nine.

”When you have a matchup with Josh Johnson it always comes down to that – to one pitch or one play, and that’s what it was,” Santana said. ”You’ve got to be on top of your game.”

Both working on six days’ rest, each pitcher was charged with one run and three hits in 6 2-3 innings. Santana and Johnson, both injured last season, threw 67 strikes apiece.

Reyes, a homegrown star and fan favorite during nine seasons with the Mets, was back to play in New York for the first time since signing a $106 million, six-year contract with the division-rival Marlins in December. He said it was an exciting and emotional day, but he wasn’t sure what to expect.

”It was kind of weird for me a little bit,” Reyes said. ”But after the third inning, everything goes away and you just focus on playing baseball.”

The speedy shortstop finished 0 for 4 and was robbed of extra bases on a leaping catch at the fence by rookie center fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis leading off the game. Reyes received a mix of cheers – and louder boos – most of the night from the crowd of 20,192, the smallest this season at Citi Field.

”Not surprised,” Mets third baseman David Wright said. ”Some of them understood the situation and others I guess will never forgive him.”

Jon Rauch (3-0) worked a perfect inning and closer Frank Francisco, pulled in a save situation Saturday, tossed a hitless ninth for his fourth save.

The victory gave the Mets a boost on an otherwise disconcerting day when they put starting pitcher Mike Pelfrey (elbow) and left fielder Jason Bay (broken rib) on the 15-day disabled list. New York, swept in a doubleheader by San Francisco on Monday, won for the second time in seven games.

”Yesterday was a tough day, but to come back like that will build up our confidence and hopefully we carry that over to tomorrow and hopefully win the series,” Santana said.

Miami has dropped three straight and is 2-7 on the road.

”It’s good to get it out of the way,” Reyes said of his first game back at Citi Field. ”Tomorrow, I’ll have a better idea. But it’s good to see my buddies over there. I played for them for a long time.”

After striking out his first three times up, Nieuwenhuis singled to start the eighth against Mujica (0-2) and went to third on Daniel Murphy’s one-out single. Wright was called out on strikes but Duda hit a line drive that hit Mujica on his middle finger and rolled behind the mound for an infield single.

”I think that Lucas is starting to show what we thought we were going to get in spring training,” Mets manager Terry Collins said.

Mujica stayed down on the ground in pain for a bit and then left the game.

”The X-ray was negative. It’s going to be a couple of days, hopefully no more than that,” Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said.

Santana gave up a one-out single to Emilio Bonifacio in the first but did not yield another hit until Giancarlo Stanton’s two-out single in the seventh. Mets nemesis Gaby Sanchez followed with an RBI double off the left-field wall and Stanton scored from first on New York’s sloppy relay.

That was it for Santana after 105 pitches, but the Mets tied it in the bottom half on four consecutive two-out walks – by four different pitchers.

Santana struck out two in each of the first five innings. He had his most strikeouts since he also fanned 11 against the Braves on Aug. 2, 2010. He lasted only 1 1-3 innings last Tuesday in a 9-3 loss at Atlanta.

”I put that one out of the way,” Santana said. ”I still have a long way to go, but it’s good to have an outing like this. I’m looking forward to the next one.”

Notes: A few minutes before the game, the Mets played a video package of highlights from Reyes’ tenure with the team on the big scoreboard in center field. The screen then read ”Thanks for the Memories!” Reyes watched from the dugout, then popped out with a smile and waved quickly to a sparse crowd that was still filing in. … Marlins 2B Omar Infante was back in the lineup after missing four games with a groin problem. … New York recalled INF Zach Lutz from Triple-A Buffalo and LHP Robert Carson from Double-A Binghamton. Lutz made his major league debut as a pinch-hitter in the seventh and struck out looking with the bases loaded to end the inning. … Chris Schwinden is likely to get called up from Buffalo to take Pelfrey’s next turn in the rotation, Friday at Colorado.