Santana, Schneider Handle Nats Easily 7-2

Posted by Dave Nichols | Friday, September 19, 2008 | , , | 0 comments »

Washington -- Perennial Cy Young candidate Johan Santana allowed just one run and struck out eight, his catcher, Brian Schneider, hit two home runs in a game for the first time since 2003, and the New York Mets emphatically closed out the four game series with a 7-2 victory over the Washington Nationals before 25,426 at Nationals Park.

Santana (W, 14-7, 2.65) was stellar in his performance as usual, going seven innings and allowing Mets manager Jerry Manual to rest most of his bullpen, after plowing through seven relievers in Wednesday's game. Santana allowed eight hits and two walks, but the strikeouts helped snuff possible rallies all night. Manual still used three more pitchers to seal the deal, but Joe Smith, Scott Schoeneweis and Pedro Feliciano closed the door effectively on this occasion.

The Mets scored runs in each of the first five innings to dominate early. Nats starter Tim Redding (L, 10-10, 4.67) was not sharp, going only three innings and surrendering five runs -- four earned -- on seven hits and a walk. Four of the seven hits were of the extra-base variety, including Schneider's first homer of the evening, a lazy fly ball to right that just kept carrying over the fence and into the Nats bullpen. Schneider, RF Ryan Church, SS Jose Reyes and LF Dan Murphy all had two hits apiece.

Despite pounding out thirteen hits, the Nats could only manage to push two across, and not until the late innings. In the seventh inning, Anderson Hernandez doubled in Wil Nieves, with pinch hitter Luke Montz moving up to third with just one out. But Santana got Cristian Guzman to pop out to second base and Ryan Zimmerman flied out to deep right. One inning later, Elijah Dukes and Willie Harris each reached via single off Mets reliever Joe Smith, and Nieves delivered Dukes on a single up the middle with two outs. Unfortunately, there would be no heroics this evening, as Alberto Gonzalez grounded to third to end the threat.

The Nationals had to be content taking two of the four games from their division rival, as one team attempts to win the N.L. East and the other is trying to avoid losing 100 games for the first time in franchise history.

Washington hosts the San Diego Padres for a three-game series this weekend, which may decide who gets the #1 pick in next year's amateur draft. Both teams enter play with identical 58-95 records, trailing the Seattle Mariners by one-half game for the worst record in major league baseball. Seattle has equal losses but one fewer win. Friday night's match-up features Nats rookie Collin Balestar (3-6, 4.54) facing the Padres veteran Jake Peavy (9-11, 2.77).

NATS NOTES: Washington is 28 games behind Philadelphia in the N.L. East. The Mets kept pace with the Phillies and remain one-half game behind for the division pennant. New York is one and one-half games ahead of Milwaukee for the Wild Card spot in the National League.

Zimmerman finished the game 3-for-5 after slumping the first three games of the series. Guzman, Dukes and Nieves all added two hits each as well.

Photo (c) C. Nichols 2008.