Of Johan Santana's 14 starts this season, the Mets have scored one run or less six times. That means Santana has to be nearly perfect to get his team a win. And he was just that in two starts this season, shutting out the Brewers and Phillies through seven innings to help the Mets win each of those games 1-0.
There have been several theories tossed around for why Santana (8-5, 3.22 ERA) hasn't gotten much run support, from the absurd (the hitters know they don't have to score too much with him on the mound, so they take it easy) to the unlikely (the offense is pressing to do well for their ace pitcher) to the more logical (Santana often matches up against the other team's ace).
In today's game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Citi Field, Theory No. 3 will definitely be in play—the Cards' ace, Chris Carpenter, takes his 5-1 record and spiffy 1.53 ERA to the mound against the Mets.
Another factor is working against the Mets scoring runs for Santana, or any other pitcher: injuries. With Jose Reyes, Carlos Delgado, and Carlos Beltran on the DL, along with Gary Sheffield not being available, the lineup is not exactly threatening.
No offense (no pun intended) to players like Alex Cora and Omir Santos, who have stepped in and performed well, but the lineup is basically David Wright and a bunch of bench players.
I didn't think this group was capable of scoring seven, eight runs in a game. Until last night of course, when the Mets exploded for 11 runs, all while shutting out the Cardinals.
Eleven runs, really? I wasn't sure the Mets would score 11 runs this series. Beltran has only been out since Monday, but in those three games this group has proven it can hit. The question is, now that Santana is on the mound, will they?
Even though we can assume the bats don't go quiet for Santana for any non-sensical reasons, the offense still might struggle today for a very real reason—Carpenter. Three of Santana's five losses this season have come when he's squared off against aces like Florida's Josh Johnson, Atlanta's Derek Lowe, Tampa Bay's James Shields.
Carpenter's career and season statistics show he is even a notch above those pitchers, so the Mets have their work cut out for them. At this point in the season there's really no reason why the probability of aces facing each other should be very high, yet here's Santana, who continues to be matched up against the opponent's top gun.
Time for the Mets, even without some of their big weapons, to fire back.