Hopefully, after tonight, Johan Santana likes the National League a little bit more. While he has not found nearly as much success in the NL as he had in the AL with the Minnesota Twins, Johan tonight realized that the easiest way to win is to do it all yourself.
Over the season, and to some extent throughout his Mets career, Santana has been the victim of poor run support. Prior to tonight's game, the Mets had scored only 41 runs while Santana was on the mound. Only Roy Oswalt, of the dreadful Houston Astros, and Paul Maholm, of the dreadful Pittsburgh Pirates, have received less run support.
Luckily for Santana, he now plays in the NL and bats for himself. So tonight, he figured he'd give himself all the run support he needs.
In the third inning, Santana battled at the plate with Reds starter Matt Maloney. During that 12-pitch at-bat, Mets commentators Gary Cohen and Keith Hernandez commented on how well Santana handles himself at the plate. Hernandez added that one day, Santana is going to get his first major league home run.
A couple of pitches later, Santana hooked a ball foul that had the distance. A few pitches later he hit a rope off the right field foul poll for his first major league home run!
My dad and I are notorious for our ability to predict when Mets batters are going to hit a home run, but never had I seen a Mets hitter (a pitcher, no less) hit a home run literally minutes after a commentator made a comment about the batter's ability to hit home runs.
It was an amazing moment, which merited a curtain call for Santana.
The solo home run wound up being sufficient for a win, as Santana pitched a brilliant complete game, three-hit shutout, against one of the best hitting teams in the NL.
But in the sixth inning, the Mets also strung together a few hits, capped by Jason Bay's two-RBI single to give the Mets a little breathing room—in case Jerry Manuel decided to put Francisco Rodriguez in the game in the ninth to blow the save (or, at least, give me some heart burn).
Santana's offense aside, this was an important game for the Mets. Santana's health and overall abilities have been questioned lately, as a result of a recent stretch, in which he gave up at least four runs and seven hits in each of his last four starts.
He bounced back by giving up one run in seven innings against the Nationals in his last start, but tonight's performance was something that we had grown accustomed to seeing from Santana in years past.
Johan is well-known for being a superb second-half pitcher, and hopefully tonight's effort is evidence that he is returning to form for the push into the playoffs. The Mets have been a great team with a mediocre Santana, and if he pitches like the Santana of old, it makes the Mets a playoff team without a doubt.
The only question remains, was tonight an aberration? Or is the Johan Santana we have grown to know and love back to form? Only time will tell.