Not even a nice seven-inning, one-run performance out of their ace could save the Mets.
Johan Santana and the Mets (2-3) fell to the Atlanta Braves, 3-1 at Turner Field this afternoon. The Braves (3-3) pitching staff, led by John Smoltz, put up zero after zero on the scoreboard, while the Mets hitters generated only five hits and no runs until the ninth.
The ace Santana did the best he could do. He gave up only one run in his nice seven-inning start, but the bullpen faltered after him. Aaron Heilman came in for the eighth inning and gave up a 2-out, 2-run homer to Mark Teixeira to extend the Braves lead to 3-0.
Finally, the Mets pressed down on the panic button and realized that if they didn’t do anything in the ninth, it would be a long ride back to New York. Back-to-back walks to Wright and Beltran by Rafael Soriano made Bobby Cox scratch his bald head and wonder what he would do. After a quick mound visit, Soriano gave up a run and the Mets came within two. The Braves decided to stick with Soriano, and Soriano ended the game without further damage, giving the Mets their second loss in their last three games.
The sad thing here is that John Smoltz lasted a short five innings, as he exited early with discomfort in his arm. What makes it even more sad is that Johan Santana pitched two more effective innings, but he is the one who ends up with the loss.
The game’s first hit never came until the second inning when Matt Diaz knocked a single up the middle. If you take a peek at the scoreboard, the game was as close as it gets until the bottom of the eighth when Santana left. Perhaps if Santana was left in for the eighth, the score would have remained deadlocked and the Mets end up scoring that one run that they had in the ninth to force extra innings? You have to take that into consideration, but enough of the woulda, coulda, shoulda from me.
Even if the Mets fall into a terrible trap in April or May, I would not panic like I would in the football season because of the amazing length of the season. You have to look ahead, because most teams that do well at the end suffer in the beginning, whether it is because their bullpen sucks or the offense can’t generate runs. They usually can get it together and work smoothly in the end because they get six months to fine-tune it all.