Johan Santana will take the mound on short rest Saturday for the New York Mets.
The Mets loss on Friday night, coupled with wins by the Phillies and Brewers puts New York in a do or die situation. Trailing the Phillies by two games in the NL East, and the Brewers by one game in the NL Wild Card with two games left to play, the Mets no longer control their own destiny.
Still, they will need to get the job done and win the final two games at Shea Stadium against the red hot Marlins. After being reluctant to make a choice on who will start Saturday, Jerry Manuel has decided to go with his ace, Johan Santana, on three days rest.
Santana has pitched on short rest in a big game once before with the Twins. It was Game Four of the 2004 American League Division Series against the Yankees. He received a no decision after pitching five innings and allowing one run while striking out seven.
Expect to see more than five innings out of Johan tomorrow. The Mets need him to put them on his back and carry them to a win to swing the momentum back in their favor.
Santana is coming off a big win over the Cubs on Tuesday, in which he threw a career high 125 pitches in eight innings of work.
Last year, in the second to last game of the season (also against Florida), the Mets got their best pitching performance of the year. John Maine allowed just two hits in 7.2 innings while striking out 14 Marlins.
To get into the playoffs, New York will need some help from the Cubs and/or the Nationals.
Tomorrow, the Wild Card leading Brewers send Ben Sheets (13-8, 2.98 ERA) to the mound, but who knows how effective he will be and how long he will pitch. He left his last start after just two innings with elbow soreness.
Sheets is 1-1 with a 4.82 ERA in four starts against the Cubs this season. The Cubs will send lefty Ted Lilly (16-9, 4.17) to the mound, and surprisingly, he has not faced the Brew Crew yet this year.
The Phillies, needing just one win to clinch their second consecutive NL East title, send veteran southpaw Jamie Moyer (15-7, 3.78) to the hill to face the last place Washington Nationals.
The Mets will be rooting for the Nationals and rookie left-hander John Lannon (9-14, 3.85), who has been Washington's best pitcher this year.
Before they can do any scoreboard watching, the Mets will need to take care of business at Shea.