By Mike Steffanos
Game 152: Mets 7 - Nationals 2
Remember back when we seemed to be reading something almost every day about Johan Santana's diminished velocity? Suddenly that seems to be much less of a factor as Santana continues to pitch like an ace despite a fastball that doesn't have quite the giddy-up it did a couple of years ago.
To my mind, Santana really shines on nights like last night when he is pitching without his most dominating stuff. The Nationals put ten men on base against him last night in his seven innings of work, but only managed to plate one of them. Like all of the best pitchers I have seen, Johan finds a way to dig down a little deeper and get himself out of trouble more often than not.
As for his suddenly slugging battery mate, Brian Schneider gets credit in my mind with overcoming injuries and a long slump to become an offensive contributor when the Mets needed it most.
At the end of July, Schneider was mired in a season long slump with a pathetically anemic .249/.337/.301 batting line. Schneider came back from the dead in August (.286/.365/.536) and has been even better so far in September (.333/.375/.639).
His numbers for the season against righties are a respectable .289/.363/.435 with 9 HR and 30 RBI in 246 AB, hitting mostly seventh or eighth in the lineup. If the Mets could find a right-handed hitting catcher who could give them similar production without getting hurt for large chunks of the season they'd be doing pretty well from that position.
Sadly, though, Ramon Castro hasn't been able to match the 99 games he played in 2005, a career high. That's gone down to 40 in 2006, 52 last season and 45 this year. I love Ramon, but it might be time to look for more durability.