On a rare off-night, Santana was in a contrary mood. He defied a bunt sign to double in the tying run, and David Wright, Carlos Beltran and Ryan Church backed him with home runs in a rare Citi Field slugfest, a 6-5 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday.
Ryan Howard, Raul Ibanez, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley homered for the Phillies, whose NL East lead was cut to two games over the Mets. Utley's drive leading off the eighth finished Santana's night and brought out Manuel.
"I just told him that, 'I feel good,"' Santana said. "I'm (not) trying to show anybody up or anything. I just felt that I had enough stuff to battle through it. But he thought different. He's my skipper and I respect everything that he does."
With the Mets trailing 4-3 in the sixth following Rollins' two-run homer, Santana (8-3) had the key at-bat. Manuel left him in with runners at first and second and one out, and Santana fouled off two pitches from Clay Condrey (4-1). Then, with an 0-2 count, he faked bunt before doubling to right for his fifth career RBI.
"I don't want to just bunt or foul it off and get myself out," Santana said. "I was able to keep everything going and I really feel proud of it because I haven't been able to do much, you know, hitting, but tonight I think it was the difference in the game."
Alex Cora's two-out RBI single put the Mets ahead 5-4 and Church homered off Chad Durbin in the seventh, his first RBI since April 27. The drive over the 16-foot wall landed in the well where the Home Run Apple sits in straightaway center field.
After Santana left, Jayson Werth singled off Bobby Parnell and Pedro Feliciano relieved. Howard grounded into a double play, dropping to 4 for 26 (.154) against the left-hander, and Ibanez bounced out.
Francisco Rodriguez finished for his 16th save in 16 chances. After Rollins led off with a single, his fifth hit in two games since being dropped from leadoff to the No. 6 slot, Pedro Feliz struck out, pinch-hitter Matt Stairs grounded into a forceout and Greg Dobbs, another pinch-hitter, took a called strike three.
"It was a good game. The only bad thing was we lost," Rollins said.
New York, which lost the NL East to the Phillies on the final day of each of the last two seasons, has won four of five against Philadelphia this year. The Mets are hanging on despite injuries to first baseman Carlos Delgado and shortstop Jose Reyes.
"Any game that we win is big for us at this point," Manuel said. "Until we feel as though we are healthy, every game is a huge game for us."
Philadelphia also has health concerns. Before the game, the Phillies put struggling closer Brad Lidge on the disabled list because of a sprained right knee.
There were just 38 homers in the first 26 games at Citi Field, but seven were hit in this one, two more than the previous high set when the Mets beat the Phillies 7-5 on May 7.
"We could have won the game, without a doubt," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.
Santana allowed a season-high five earned runs and eight hits in seven-plus innings. His ERA, which had led the NL at 2.00, rose to 2.39. Ibanez's homer was just the 10th off Santana on an 0-2 pitch, the first since the Yankees' Jason Giambi on May 17 last year, according to STATS LLC.
"Just because you're Johan Santana, it doesn't mean you're going to throw a shutout every night," Santana said.
Wright's second-inning homer ended his homerless streak at 100 at-bats, one shy of his career high, set in 2006. His fourth home run of the season was his first since May 7 against Philadelphia's Jamie Moyer.
But instead of the sluggers, the key decision came when Santana ignored a sign.
"He's got a good feel for the game," Wright said. "If he swings, I trust him. I'm sure Jerry will say the same thing."
Notes: Santana also gave up four homers for Minnesota at Toronto on July 23, 2007. ... The Mets began the night with 34 home runs, 28th in the majors, ahead of only Pittsburgh (33) and San Francisco (28). ... Condrey lost for the first time since Aug. 29 against the Chicago Cubs. ... Phillies starter J.A. Happ gave up four runs and six hits in 5 1-3 innings.
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