This one stings a little. Johan Santana had everything working for him – he wasn’t dominant, but he was just good enough for the Braves not to get anything going off of him, allowing one run through seven innings. It was similar to Monday, where Santana was very good, and still didn’t feel like he was pitching at his capabilities. And yet, he left the game trailing 1-0. The Mets offense just could not get anything going, first against John Smoltz and then against the Atlanta bullpen. In the 5th, it looked like the Mets may have gotten a gift when Smoltz was forced to leave the game early because of injury – Smoltz had dominated the Mets until that point, allowing just two hits and two walks in 5 innings, striking out 6.
The Mets just couldn’t cash in, though. They would muster only five more base runners against a lowly regarded Braves bullpen, three of them in the 9th coming on the Braves’ best reliever, Rafael Soriano. The top three hitters in the Mets’ lineup were 0-13 today with three walks, and the only extra base hit came by the pitcher, Johan Santana. This was just a Mets offense that never got it going at all; the 1-0 deficit they had going into the 8th felt like 10-0, and after Aaron Heilman allowed a two-out homer to Mark Teixiera, the lead felt like 30-0, even if they did get a run back in the 9th.
There’s going to be days where the team just has poor efforts. It happens. Still doesn’t make it feel any less disheartening, though, especially when Johan Santana pitches so well. Like I said, it really didn’t even feel like he had his best stuff yet, like he’s still rounding into shape, but it was enough to dominate a pretty good Braves lineup. It’s games like today that showcase the fallacy of assigning wins and losses to pitchers. Santana pitched brilliantly, but because the Mets hitting couldn’t do anything against John Smoltz and the Braves’ bullpen, he gets assigned with a loss, a black mark. Makes no sense to me, but what can you do?
The Mets will have Monday off before opening at home against the hated Phillies on Tuesday, a rare Tuesday opener at Shea, in what will be the last opening day at Shea Stadium. It will be Oliver Perez taking the mound for the Mets against Jamie Moyer in a battle of lefties, so don’t be surprised if the Mets’ hitting struggles, but at least the Mets will have Perez to counteract the Phillies’ tough lefties. Game time is 1:10 and I would not suggest missing this one if you’re a Mets fan; for me, this game carries more meaning than even the Mets’ last regular season home game at Shea.