Johan falls apart in 9-3 Mets loss to Braves

“That really got out of hand fast.” That’s the only way to described last night’s Mets loss, which saw the home team fall behind 9-0 after just two innings of Johan Santana pitching.

In the first, Santana got hurt by a pair of dribbler singles by Michael Bourn and Reed Johnson. However, he appeared to settle down with strikeouts of Jason Heyward and Chipper Jones. For about one second it looked like Johan was “back,” but in the next moment he gave up a double to Freddie Freeman down the first base line. The score was 2-0 Braves, but Santana had still pitched a pretty solid first inning.

It was very difficult to say the same for the second inning. After Dan Uggla walked and Paul Janish singled, opposing pitcher Kris Medlen sneaked a ground ball through the infield for an RBI single. Now things were really getting frustrating, but Atlanta refused to yield. Bourn and Heyward each ripped line drives into the outfield to score a couple more runs, and Chipper Jones poked a base hit into right for one more.

Now Santana was being lifted with the score 6-0, even though he had only given up one extra base hit. Of the 10 balls hit into play against him, only two went for outs. I thought it would be better if Terry Collins just let Santana build his confidence and get a couple more innings under his belt. Unfortunately, Collins saw it differently and brought in Jeremy Hefner for a long relief effort. Hefner immediately gave up a three-run homer to Freeman and the game was all but over.

“Over three weeks not facing any hitters at this level and trying to command all your pitches, (it) wasn’t my best,” Santana said. “I think as I continue I’ll make some progress and improve my command. I think I left some pitches up in the strike zone and when you make mistakes like that that’s what’s going to happen.”

On the bright side, Santana didn’t give up a home run, and even Freeman’s first inning double wasn’t elevated much (the pitch was, the ball wasn’t). The long ball has been a major problem for Santana during this rough stretch, so it was nice to see that every Braves hit against him landed in front of an outfielder.

Despite not really needing a good performance, Kris Medlen turned in a great one in his third start of the year. The converted reliever threw 88 pitches in 6.1 innings with seven strikeouts and just one walk with one run allowed.

“I don’t even know if that’s ever happened before,” Medlen said of pitching with a 9-0 lead after the Braves’ second inning. “That’s one thing you need as a starter, some run support. I got that.”

The Mets got on the board in the bottom of the second with an Andres Torres RBI single. They didn’t score again until the eighth, when Ruben Tejada hit an RBI double against Atlanta reliever Luis Avilan. It’s funny how Mets fans are in love with Tejada but barely give Torres any love. Both players play premium defensive positions and Tejada’s on-base percentage is only a bit higher than that of Torres (.367 to .353). Tejada also has a better slugging percentage than Torres (.390 to .351) but Tejada’s OBP advantage is mostly due to a .386 BABIP.

Torres’ high walk rate makes his OBP more sustainable, and yet he’s far from the fan favorite that Tejada is developing into. Tejada does have more upside for sure (he’s only 22 years old), but right now the two players are far more similar than most fans seem to realize.

Anyway, David Wright hit an RBI single against Cory Gearrin to finish off the scoring. The New York bullpen was actually really good even though they didn’t need to be. Hefner didn’t give up another score after the Freeman home run, and he lasted 3.2 innings. After that, Manny Acosta pitched two perfect innings, Jon Rauch pitched a perfect frame of his own, and Frank Francisco struck out the side in the ninth.

Here’s the box score. The Mets finish off their series with the Braves tonight on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball. Jon Niese will be on the mound opposite. human comeback story Ben Sheets.

You can follow me on Twitter @apy5000 for more fun.

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