By Mike Steffanos
Game 20: Mets 7 - Nationals 2
Johan Santana did what he had to do last night -- he stopped the Mets losing streak at 3.
He wasn't overpowering, managing only 4 strikeouts in 7 innings. The Nats managed 7 hits off of him, including a 2-run double by the opposing pitcher. Yet he was aggressive, threw strikes and gave the Mets a chance to win.
If you didn't see the game you might look at the 7 runs the Mets put up and figure they got it back together offensively. They weren't exactly stinging the ball, however. When the Mets broke a 2-2 tie with 3 in the top of the sixth only Carlos Beltran's leadoff single made it to the outfield.
Yet there were plenty of good things to see last night. There was hustle on the bases, there was smart baserunning, and there were productive outs. I'm sure there will come a point where the Mets show more power, but small ball is likely to be important to their chances of making a playoff run.
With 20 games gone, the Mets are 1/8 of the way through their schedule. The record is 11-9, which would translate to just under 90 wins. They've been beating the teams they should beat and struggling against the better clubs. I'm still not quite certain what they are this year, but I don't think I see the apathy we saw for a large stretch of 2007. That's certainly a step in the right direction.
By the way, browsing through the papers today there seemed to be a lot of writers who felt the Nats are a terrible team, among them Joel Sherman in the Post .
While it's fair to say the Nationals are not off to a good start, I think it's simplistic and wrong just to write them off as a bad team.
They have their problems. Their offense is so-so, and their defense leaves a lot to be desired, particularly in LF, CF and 2B.
On the other hand, their starting pitching isn't bad, and their bullpen is actually pretty good. They'll definitely hit better than they are right now, and probably improve over the season. It wouldn't shock me if they wound up in spitting distance of .500 before it's all said and done, particularly if Cordero makes it back.