By Mike Steffanos
Game 124: Mets 4 - Pirates 0
The obvious jokes about the bullpen not being able to blow games that they don't pitch in aside, Santana's complete game shutout of the Pirates yesterday afternoon couldn't have come at a better time. It was the thirteenth game in a row without a day off, with ten more games to go before a blank in the schedule. For an overworked bullpen, this was a gift.
For a while this season Santana was taking a pretty good beating in all quarters. TV, Talk radio, blogs, stools in the neighborhood beer joint and the local papers were all a part of it. Even many of those who weren't slamming Santana questioned whether he was the type of pitcher to take a team on his back when they needed him -- in other words, living up to that large contract he signed.
For the most part, I think the vast majority of the talk was reasonable, especially if you stayed away from the excesses of sports talk radio and those with no patience at all. Oh yeah, and it seemed as if every other day Buster Olney was printing some quote from someone in baseball about the drop in Johan's velocity over the last couple of seasons.
Still, even for a second-half guy like Santana there was some cause for concern. His May numbers were somewhat alarming, particularly in allowing 11.5 hits per nine innings pitched as the league posted a decidedly non-ace like .307/.349/.493 line against him. Even in a win against the Yankees he was torched for 3 home runs.
But slowly, Santana made the adjustments he needed to make. In looking at him month-by-month totals, his last three are what you'd expect from a true ace:
|Month By Month|
If, as a Mets fan, you accept the fact that Santana isn't going to be an innings horse in the ilk of Roy Halladay, you are well on the way to total acceptance of Johan. I know I was grateful in the ninth inning yesterday that he was out there.