Mets get a save, and a win

August 12, 2008 8:37:31 PM PDT
The beleaguered New York Mets bullpen finally saved one for Johan Santana, preserving a 4-3 victory Tuesday night that extended the Washington Nationals' losing streak to six games. The Mets snapped an eighth-inning tie when Damion Easley was hit by Saul Rivera's two-strike pitch with the bases loaded, and they handed a slim lead to a shaky relief corps that has struggled badly without injured closer Billy Wagner.

But this time, Joe Smith and Pedro Feliciano each worked a scoreless inning to lock down Santana's elusive 10th win. Feliciano, normally a left-handed specialist, struck out two in a perfect ninth for his third major league save. The other two came last year.

Six times this season New York's bullpen has cost Santana (10-7) a potential win - with five of the collapses coming in the ninth inning. The two-time AL Cy Young Award winner left with a 3-1 lead in his previous outing last Thursday, only to have San Diego tie it in the ninth.

The relievers also blew a four-run cushion for Pedro Martinez over the final three innings of Monday's 7-5 loss to Pittsburgh, prompting exasperated manager Jerry Manuel to suggest he might even think about using his starters out of the bullpen in an attempt to fix the glaring problem.

That led to a couple of Mets starters answering questions before Tuesday's game about the possibility of moving to a relief role and whether they'd be comfortable in the 'pen.

Santana, however, is staying at the top of the rotation. He rebounded from a tough start to toss seven solid innings. The left-hander allowed three runs and eight hits, striking out six and walking two before being lifted for a pinch hitter with the bases loaded in the eighth.

David Wright and Carlos Beltran started the inning with consecutive singles, and Fernando Tatis walked to load the bases. Rivera (3-5) then plunked Easley with a 1-2 pitch that umpires ruled hit him on the helmet.

Washington manager Manny Acta argued vehemently that the ball sailed over Easley's head. He got all four umps to discuss the play, but the call stood.

Five of the first eight Nationals batters got hits, but Santana gave up just one run and three hits after that to win his third straight decision.

Carlos Delgado gave the Mets a 2-0 lead with a two-run single in the first. Ryan Zimmerman answered in the bottom half with an RBI single, and Jesus Flores tied it three batters later with a run-scoring double.

The Mets went up 3-2 in the third on Beltran's RBI double, and Santana held it until pinch-hitter Ryan Langerhans homered to start the seventh.

Notes: Washington's Lastings Milledge, a former Met, extended his career-best hitting streak to 13 games with a sixth-inning bunt single. ... Langerhans' shot was Washington's sixth pinch-hit homer this season. ... Mets SS Jose Reyes reached 40 stolen bases for the fourth straight year. ... Santana hasn't lost since June 28.