Sunday, April 12, 2009


Mets' manager Jerry Manuel was dead-set against starting Gary Sheffield in right field today at Dolphin Stadium because he said he wanted his ace, Johan Santana to have the best defense behind him.
But it was Daniel Murphy's defense in left field that betrayed Santana in the bottom of the second inning that sealed the Mets' fate in an agonizing 2-1 loss that saw Santana's 13-strikeout performance squandered and his absorbing a loss since June 28, 2008.
With two outs and John Baker on first base, the Marlins' Cody Ross lofted a routine fly ball to Murphy in left. It appeared to all the world, except to Baker and Ross, who hustled all the way, that it would be the third out. But the ball clanked off the heel of Murphy's glove as he tried to squeeze it and rolled forward. Baker easily scored and Ross raced to second base to get in scoring position. Ross would soon be off and racing again, this time for home, as Ronny Paulino lined a single to drive him home.
Two runs would be all Marlins' ace Josh Johnson would need.
The right-hander economized his pitches and pumped in a strong, mid-90s fastball through his complete game performance. Johnson took a no-hitter into the sixth inning before allowing a broken-bat bloop single to Luis Castillo.
One inning later, the Mets mounted the most serious threat to that point against Johnson, getting runners to first and second base with one out, via a David Wright single and error by third baseman Emilio Bonifacio. But Carlos Beltran bounced a 1-2 pitch to Johnson, who started an easy double play to escape trouble.
In the seventh inning, Johnson allowed a leadoff double to Ryan Church, whose six on the young season lead the Major Leagues, but then struck out Ramon Castro. In a curious and ultimately unsuccessful move, Castillo sacrificed Church to third and Johnson issued his only walk, to Jeremy Reed, who was pinch-hitting for Santana. But Jose Reyes, who failed to get the ball out of the infield in four at-bats, grounded out to Johnson to end the inning.
But Johnson fought his way out of his biggest jam in the top of the ninth inning to earn his complete game win.
After retiring the first two hitters, Carlos Delgado roped a double off the center field wall and Beltran promptly singled him home to draw the Mets within 2-1. That brought up Church, who lined a 3-1 pitch to left field, which Marlins' left-fielder Brett Carroll -- installed in the eight inning as, you guessed it, a defensive replacement, caught off of his shoe-tops to end the game.
Winning pitcher -- Johnson (2-0)
Losing pitcher -- Santana (1-1)
2B -- Hermida (1), Church (6)
RBI -- Paulino (2), Beltran (6)
Sacrifice bunts -- Santana (1), Castillo (2)
Caught Stealing -- Reyes (2, second base, Johnson/Paulino)
Double plays -- Marlins, 2
Errors -- Helms (1, missed catch), Murphy (1, catch), Castillo (2, fielding), Bonifacio (2, fielding)
Runners left on base -- Mets 5, Marlins, 3
Runners left in scoring position -- Mets 3, Marlins, 2
Web gems -- Marlins: Top ninth, one out, none on, Ramirez goes deep in the hole at shortstop to field Wright's grounder, then throws him out at first base by a step.
METS NOTES: Though he established a new high as a Met for strikeouts in a game with 13, Santana was defeated for the first time in a regular season game since June 28, 2008 in a loss to the New York Yankees. Both runs off Santana were unearned, lowering his ERA to 0.71. Johnson, though, lowered his ERA to 0.57.

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