Santana sparks Mets' win

September 23, 2008 7:26:39 PM PDT
The New York Mets needed a break, and Johan Santana's bat shattered just in time.Santana sparked the Mets' offense with an unusual broken-bat infield single and struck out 10 in eight innings, leading New York to a much-needed 6-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday night.

Jose Reyes had a three-run triple for his 200th hit of the season and David Wright drove in two runs with a clutch single for the Mets, who ended a three-game skid reminiscent of last season's epic collapse.

New York, which entered with a one-game lead over Milwaukee in the wild-card race, moved within 1 1/2 games of NL East-leading Philadelphia, which lost 3-2 to Atlanta. The Phillies won the division title last year after the Mets blew a seven-game lead with 17 to play.

New York acquired Santana (15-7) in the offseason for situations like Tuesday night, and the left-hander came up big. He allowed two runs and seven hits to improve to 8-0 with a 2.26 ERA in his last 16 starts.

Santana, glowering at plate umpire Phil Cuzzi after some close throws, tossed a career-high 125 pitches. It was the highest total for a Mets pitcher since Orlando Hernandez threw 130 on Aug. 14, 2007.

Reed Johnson and Kosuke Fukudome both had two hits for Chicago, which secured home-field advantage throughout the NL playoffs with its 9-5 victory over New York on Monday night.

The Cubs put two runners on in the ninth against Pedro Feliciano but Luis Ayala came in and got two outs for his ninth save.

Santana's wacky hit got the Mets back on track after they struggled for much of the game against Sean Marshall, who worked out of a jam in the first and retired 12 of 13 before running into trouble in the fifth.

With one out, Marshall plunked Nick Evans and Santana followed with a broken-bat grounder up the middle. Marshall eluded a piece of Santana's bat but the ball got past him and kicked off the broken wood, bouncing off the glove of shortstop Ronny Cedeno.

The unlikely hit put runners on first and second and sent a charge through the Shea Stadium crowd, increasingly uneasy as the Mets struggled to score against Marshall.

Reyes struck out, but Luis Castillo walked and Wright lined a tying two-run single into left. Wright clapped his hands repeatedly after ending an 0-for-11 skid with the bases loaded.

New York added four runs in the sixth, helped by reliever Chad Gaudin's throwing error. After Carlos Delgado led off with a double, Ramon Castro hit a slow roller to the right of the mound.

Gaudin (4-2) and first baseman Derrek Lee hesitated before the pitcher picked it up and threw it past Lee.

Delgado scored to give New York the lead, and Reyes tacked on his triple later in the inning to make it 6-2.

Cubs manager Lou Piniella rested three regulars after Monday night's big win, and two of his subs came up big.

Casey McGehee, filling in for third baseman Aramis Ramirez, and Fukudome hit consecutive doubles off Santana in the second to give the Cubs a 1-0 lead. Cedeno, who started at shortstop in place of Ryan Theriot, doubled and scored on Johnson's single in the third.