Santana, 'pen combine to help Mets blank Brewers
Johan Santana looked perfectly at home in a ballpark built with him in mind.
He looked downright indignant when asked whether he planned to give up any runs this season.
"No," the two-time Cy Young Award winner replied, shrugging his shoulders.
Santana breezed effortlessly through seven innings in his first start at Citi Field, and the New York Mets took advantage of a key error to scratch out the only run they needed in a 1-0 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers on Saturday.
A hard-luck loser so often his first season-plus in New York, Santana (2-1) allowed five hits and struck out seven without issuing a walk. He never allowed a Brewers baserunner past first.
"The thing that amazes me is it appears people know it's coming - they know it's coming," said Mets manager Jerry Manuel. "He is able to execute and locate the fastball to where you get a good swing on it in this park, you hit it to the big part of the park."
Santana was coming off a sharp performance against the Florida Marlins in which both runs were unearned in a 2-1 loss. He's allowed only one earned run in his first 19 2-3 innings, and hasn't allowed more than three earned runs in a start since last July 17.
All those stellar outings haven't always led to wins, though. This was the fourth straight game that the Mets failed to score more than two runs for him.
"Even though we're not scoring that many runs, we're playing good baseball," Santana said. "We're taking advantage of the mistakes that they make and that was the difference."
The Brewers certainly made a costly one.
After young right-hander Yovani Gallardo fought to keep Milwaukee in the game, he turned the ball over to Carlos Villanueva starting the seventh.
Villanueva (1-2) issued a leadoff walk to Ramon Castro, and after Omir Santos came in to run for the plodding catcher, pinch-hitter Alex Cora laid down a sacrifice bunt. Cora sprinted to first and hit the bag just as Rickie Weeks was dropping the throw, allowing Santos to head for third.
"I just missed it," Weeks said.
Moments later, Jose Reyes lined a pitch back at Villanueva for an RBI fielder's choice, and the Mets' new bullpen took care of things after that.
J.J. Putz set the Brewers down in order in the eighth, and new closer Francisco Rodriguez worked around a leadoff single to Ryan Braun for his third save of the season.
The game ended when K-Rod struck out J.J. Hardy and Santos gunned down Braun attempting to steal second, eliciting a roar from a packed stadium on a picture-perfect afternoon.
"So far, everything is working the way we want it to," Rodriguez said.
Most believe Citi Field, with its exceptionally deep gaps and tall outfield walls, will turn out to be a pitcher's park. It plays 408 feet to center and a gargantuan 415 to right-center, with a wall that stands at 15 feet across most of left field, roughly twice the height of Shea Stadium.
It certainly played to Santana's advantage in the fourth inning when, with a runner aboard, Hardy drove a pitch deep to left-center. Carlos Beltran wandered back and caught the 380-foot shot with his back against the wall, keeping the game scoreless.
"It's pretty wide out there," Santana said. "He hit that ball pretty well and you know, with a guy like Beltran there, if it's in the park he's going to catch it."
Gallardo matched Santana almost batter-for-batter until leaving with his pitch count at 103.
The erratic 23-year-old starter allowed only five hits and a pair of walks with seven strikeouts in his first start against the Mets. The performance came after an atrocious outing against Cincinnati, when he allowed seven runs in five innings.
"Great pitching out there today, both guys - Santana as usual," Brewers manager Ken Macha said.
It was the fourth one-run loss of the season for Milwaukee, which is off to a tough start on a nine-game, 10-day trip. The Brewers blew a late lead in a 5-4 loss to the Mets on Friday night.
"Can't hang your head on a couple of bad loses," outfielder Mike Cameron said. "The good thing is we've been in the games to give ourselves a chance to win. We just got to find a way to get over the hump."
Mets RHP Mike Pelfrey will skip his scheduled start Sunday because of forearm tendinitis, but Manuel said the injury is not serious. Nelson Figueroa was called up from Triple-A Buffalo to take his place, and RHP Darren O'Day was designated for assignment. ... Mets 3B David Wright went 0-for-3 to snap a 10-game hitting streak ... Brewers closer Trevor Hoffman (right oblique) threw 37 pitches in a bullpen session and said he felt fine. He's expected to pitch for Triple-A Nashville on Tuesday.