Johan Santana Gets Back in the Groove

Santana follows Dickey with another shutout of the Orioles

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    A much needed exhalation for Santana.

    Johan Santana did R.A. Dickey a pretty big favor when he threw that no-hitter on June 1.

    In a world where no Mets pitcher had ever thrown a no-hitter, Dickey's consecutive one-hitters wouldn't be universally celebrated as the high point in the knuckleballer's Hollywood story nor would they be part of the argument for why Dickeymania is more of an improbable joy than Linsanity ever was.

    Without Santana's no-no, Dickey's gems are salt in the wound instead of just great moments in team history.

    Santana hadn't pitched all that well since the big night against the Cardinals and got strafed in the Bronx and knocked around in Tampa for his troubles. It was just two starts, one of which resulted in a Mets win, but you could still feel a bit of worry about the combination of 134 pitches, a surgically repaired shoulder and plain old bad Mets luck starting to mount.

    Tuesday night's game with the Orioles was the antacid to the collective upset stomach caused by those two starts. Santana was back and in full command of his powers, cruising through six innings of shutout ball en route to a 5-0 win.

    His best moment came in the fourth inning with two on and one out in a scoreless game. Santana mixed up his slider, changeup and fastball expertly against Mark Reynolds to notch a strikeout and then did the whole thing over again against Steve Pearce for another whiff that ended the biggest jam Santana faced on his way to victory.

    It wasn't quite as dominant as Dickey was on Monday night, but Santana got the job done all the same. The win means that the Mets now have a 20-8 record in games started by their two aces on the season, a mark that has everything to do with why the Mets would be in the playoffs if the season ended right now.

    They are 17-24 in games started by others, which calls to mind an old bit of poetry that accompanied the old Boston Braves of Warren Spahn and Johnny Sain. Their plan for success, it was said, was "First we'll use Spahn, then we'll use Sain. Then an off day followed by rain."

    That actually wasn't fair to the other pitchers on the team, who weren't all that bad, but never let facts get in the way of a good story. Those Braves won the National League pennant and if the Mets want to do the same, they are going to have to figure out how to change the second half of the poetic assessment of their own season.

    After Santana and Dickey, things start getting tricky.

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    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.