July 27, 2008

Santana's complete game sends Cards packing


New York Mets' starter Johan Santana pitched a complete game in a 9-1 shellacking of the St. Louis Cardinals today. Albert Pujols spoiled his shutout with a solo home run.

Cardinals' ace Kyle Lohse got pounded, taking the loss, his record now 12-3.

Both Santana and Lohse got out of their respective first innings with the help of double plays.

Three air outs were the order of the Cards' second; the Mets left two men on base for the second time. Of note was Santana had thrown 19 pitches while Lohse had already piled up 40.

A one-two-three inning for Santana in the third, fly out, ground out, strikeout, and no Cardinals' hit.

Trouble for Lohse in the bottom of the third, Jose Reyes lacing a long drive to right field that Ryan Ludwick misjudged, the ball sailing over his head and to the wall, Reyes coming into second with a stand-up double. Endy Chavez created big problems with a drag bunt that forced first baseman Albert Pujols to range to his right to field. The play developed so quickly, there was no way Lohse could cover first base, and when Pujols raced over to tag Chavez, the Mets' bunter slide just out of Pujols' reaching tag attempt. Pujols was adamnant in arguing the call with the first base umpire, manager Tony La Russa joining in, but after an umpire's conference, Chavez was ruled safe. They may have missed debating the point that Chavez ran outside the baserunners' marked running lane on the foul territory side, that step out of bounds all it took to evade Pujols' tag.

After David Wright flew out to shallow center, Carlos Delgado hit a longer fly to center, J. Reyes scoring on a tag up at third while center fielder Skip Schumaker alertly fired back in to second base, almost, but not quite doubling off Chavez. With the Mets up 1-0, Carlos Betran drove a single to right field, Ludwick firing to the plate, but short-hopping the throw which got away from Yadier Molina. Chavez was beat by the throw, but safe on the play.

Down 2-0, the bigger concern might've been the mounting pitch count of Lohse, up to 64 by the end of the inning. At that pace, Lohse might be expected to throw only five innings.

The top of the Cards' order couldn't dent Santana in the fourth; a ground out and two fly outs.

The quick Cardinal fourth put Lohse back to the mound with little recovery time. Lohse, however, had his first one-two-three inning, much needed at that point.

Troy Glaus led off the fifth with a laser single to center, only the second Cardinals' base runner to that point. Three air outs, however, and the Cards came up empty, still down 2-0, and Santana having thrown a mere smattering more pitches, his total now at 49, making his average pitches per inning less than 10.

Getting to Santana might would be the task at hand for St. Louis, while Lohse, doing well, would have to attempt to keep the score 2-0 for as long as possible.

For two outs was as long as possible, as David Wright blasted a solo homer way up in the left center field seats, tacking one one for the Mets, making it 3-0.

The Cards went in order in the sixth, Santana's count up on a scant 62 pitches while Lohse was up to 86.

The hopes that La Russa could get a couple more innings out of Lohse fading when Fernando Tatis clouted a two-run shot to left, the Mets extending their lead to 5-0. Lohse seemed frustrated on a swinging bunt by Damion Easley. The Cards' ace was obviously winded, but La Russa left him in to face Ramon Castro, who jumped on the next offering, launching it into the left field seats to put the Mets further ahead at 7-0.

La Russa was pretty sure then that Lohse was spent, calling upon reliever Randy Flores, the only Cardinals' pitcher who didn't throw in last night's marathon. Santana took a full count Flores pitch deep to right, standing and admiring his handiwork a couple steps out of the batters' box as the ball fell short of a home run. With the crowd noise, right fielder Ludwick didn't hear Ryan calling for a throw to first, and Santana barely made it there. Jose Reyes would make fans forget for a moment, lining a double into the left field corner, Santana advancing to third. A pop out later, Wright singled to left-center, Joe Mather throwing a rainbow, off-line to home, Molina having to leave the plate to go after the ball. With the throw sailing over cutoff man, Pujols' head, Reyes attempted to scored, but a quick flip from Molina to Flores covering home got Reyes sliding in. The Mets stopped there, five runs scored in the inning, now up 8-0.

Pujols got one back in the seventh, destroying a Santana shutout with a solo blast to left center. Molina singled to right, but the Cards couldn't manage to get a rally started.

The Mets touched up reliever Mitchell Boggs in the bottom of the frame, adding one run to extend to 9-1.

Jason Isringhausen worked the eighth, one-two-three.

Pujols scorched a single to left field to lead off the ninth, Joel Pineiro pinch running for him. Santana shut down the next three hitters, however, completing the game.

The Cardinals lost the three-game series in their last regular season visit to Shea Stadium. They now travel to Atlanta to start a four-game set tomorrow night.
photo by Alan Penner