Black Magic Man: Johan Santana Provides Fire for Rivalry Battle

Jonathan RagusCorrespondent IJune 9, 2009

NEW YORK - JUNE 09: Johan Santana #57 of the New York Mets celebrates after catching Shane Victorino #8 of the Philadelphia Phillies during their game at Citi Field on June 9, 2009 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

In the short term life span of Citi Field, the brand new Flushing home had yet to witness the electricity that Met fans ignited Shea with. There would be no fans aimlessly walking around the beautiful park tonight. 45,000 sat in their seats to witness one of baseball hottest rivalries along with the hottest pitcher, Johan Santana.

When the first pitch was thrown, the crowd let out a mighty roar that fueled the blood of Santana and his ship crew. With the Phillies ahead three games in the division, the ace knew what was on the line.

Once again, he was spectacular. It didn’t matter that he struck out just two batters, he brought his A-Game and put the team on his shoulders with three mighty tools of the trade. His arm, his glove, and his bat.

Santana racked up out after out by way of the pop up. Feisty Philly hitters were getting under his nasty change and filthy fastball and it helped Santana shut them down through the first three. After Carlos Beltran homered to enhance a 1-0 lead to 3-0 by the fourth, Santana ran into trouble by way of the long ball.

Two of the best home run hitters in the major leagues gave Santana back-to-back trouble. With two out, Ryan Howard hit his 18th of the season. Raul Ibanez would follow immediately after with his 20th. The long balls cut the Met lead to 3-2.

Santana gave up the lead in the sixth after Jimmy Rollins homered with one on. Johan left the field that inning not dejected, but revengeful. After Tatis was out at the plate due to a controversial call, the Mets looked to rally back with one out. Omir Santos would hit safely to get on base putting two aboard for Johan.

Originally designing a sacrifice bunt two advance the runners, the Phillies had the wheel play in motion. With two strikes against Johan, he bluffed the bunt and drove a hanging slider down the line in right field. Ryan Church scored from second and that tied it.

Two of Santana’s mighty tools in use so far. This gave way for Alex Cora to drive home Santos with two out and the lead was handed right back to the Metropolitans.

With only 74 pitches under his belt, Santana was sent back out in the seventh to keep it rolling. With one out, Eric Bruntlett walked. Here comes tool No. 3. A rocket hot shot lined by Shane Victorino found the glove of Santana. Over to first he threw and the double play ended the inning.

The offense wasn’t finished giving their starter some insurance. Ryan Church who hadn’t homered since April lifted a bomb to dead center. That was the  first home run in Citi Field history to land on the home run apple. The Mets had a bit more breathing room against of the NL’s best offensive teams.

Santana returned for the eighth and why not? He wasn’t overpowering, but his presence alone makes a huge difference. It wouldn’t last long as the first batter Chase Utley became the fourth man to homer off him.

Reluctant, Santana was taken out, but left to an enormous standing ovation from the Citi faithful. Pedro Feliciano pitched in relief, threw four pitches for three outs. The lead was still safe for the team to take home.

K-Rod came out in the ninth and performed wonderfully yet again as he clinched save number 16 of the season, and that was all she wrote.

Huge win for this team. You have to admire that this team has been playing uninspired baseball the last three weeks but they knew what was at stake this time. They showed heart, desire, and a determination to win. Santana on the mound made a huge difference, but every single player made an impact.

David Wright homered on his first at-bat. It was his first in exactly 100 appearances. Carlos Beltran provided a power shot, Ryan Church went deep as well. This team found a way to win by the dramatics, and who better to do it against then Philadelphia.

After all the agonizing misery that Met fans have endured due to the size of this teams disabled roster, Met fans can finally wipe the sweat from their brow. If this team can manage further victories just like this one, you can expect inspired baseball to excite the Big Apple.

Randy Sobel is a contributor to and can be reached at