Santana outduels Oswalt, blanks AstrosAug 23, 2008 - 4:20 AM By Larry Fleisher PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer
FLUSHING, New York (Ticker) -- The Houston Astros made Johan Santana work, but every time they were on the verge of scoring, the lefthander delivered the right pitch.
Santana battled through seven innings as the surging New York Mets defeated the Astros, 3-0, on Friday.
David Wright had an RBI single and Brian Schneider hit a two-run homer for the Mets, who have won 10 of 11 and are a major league-best 14-4 since August 3 - when they were blanked in Houston to complete a three-game sweep.
Santana (12-7) allowed eight hits with five strikeouts and one walk. He threw 86 of his career-high 121 pitches for strikes.
"He's been special," Mets manager Jerry Manuel said. "He's been very special. I actually wanted to take him out in the sixth inning, but he pleaded, begged and told me he'd be OK."
Santana improved to 5-0 in his last nine starts. This win was not as easy as Sunday's three-hitter in Pittsburgh, however.
"I didn't know, but I felt good the whole game," Santana said regarding the high pitch count. "They took some good at-bats, they fouled off a lot of pitches. But I was there. I was throwing strikes. It was a matter of throwing the right pitch."
Against the Pirates, he threw 113 pitches but surpassed that mark during a seventh-inning encounter with Mark Loretta in this one. He retired Loretta on a flyout to right field and then used his final pitch to induce a groundout by Miguel Tejada.
That was the theme of Santana's night. The Astros had several lengthy at-bats but stranded nine, going hitless in four at-bats with runners in scoring position.
"We've got to get hits in key situations, the clutch hits," Houston manager Cecil Copper said. "We've been scratching the last few games."
Santana's previous career high for pitches was 120 for Minnesota on April 21, 2006 against the Chicago White Sox.
"There were a lot of foul balls more than anything," Manuel said. "I think what he did tonight different than (against) Pittsburgh (was) when he got 0-2, he went out of the strike zone so bad that they couldn't swing at it. Then when he came back in, he accumulated a lot of foul balls.
"I would have preferred him to stay in the strike zone, even at 0-2. I think those are the things that when we have him in that type of situation, where the pitch count has accumulated early, we need to stay in the strike zone regardless whether it's 0-2."
Despite Santana's lack of efficiency with his pitch count, Manuel was more than willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. His ace delivered, improving to 26-3 in his last 37 August starts.
Santana also said he wanted to stay in the game as long as Roy Oswalt was still pitching.
"I know Roy for a long time," Santana said. "When I was in the minor leagues with Houston, we played three years together, so I know him pretty well. I just told Jerry I felt good and that I had a chance to go through the seventh inning."
Aaron Heilman struck out two in the eighth and Luis Ayala did the same in the ninth for his first save as a Met.
Oswalt (11-9) pitched more efficiently than Santana, allowing three runs and four hits in his first complete game of the season. But New York was able to cash in on its limited opportunities and handed the righthander his first loss in six decisions.
The Mets manufactured their first run as Jose Reyes led off with a single, took second on a wild pitch and was sacrificed to third by Argenis Reyes. Wright followed with a base hit to right field, plating Jose Reyes.
The Mets went up, 3-0, with one out in the second, when Schneider lined the first pitch over the right-center field wall. The blast scored Ryan Church, who had reached on an infield single in his first at-bat since being activated from the disabled list earlier in the day.
It was Schneider's fifth home run of the year and third in his last three games.
"It feels good to be able to contribute offensively," Schneider said. "My job is to be in charge of the pitching staff and shut down the running game."
After that, Oswalt retired 20 in a row, needing 102 pitches to record his 13th career complete game.
"I felt pretty good," said Oswalt, who lost for the first time since June 25. "It was a pretty good first-pitch strike (to Schneider). I threw it down and away, and he hooked it."
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
- - - - - - - - - - - -
HOUSTON 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 8 0
NY METS 1 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 x 3 4 0 (FINAL)
BATTERIES: HOU - ROY OSWALT AND BRAD AUSMUS
NYM - JOHAN SANTANA, AARON HEILMAN (8TH), LUIS AYALA
(9TH) AND BRIAN SCHNEIDER
HOME RUNS: HOU - NONE
NYM - BRIAN SCHNEIDER (5) OFF
Aug 22 9:29 PM
AT NY METS - SCORING UPDATE
TWO-RUN HOME RUN BY BRIAN SCHNEIDER (5) TO RIGHT WITH 1 OUT
IN THE 2ND OFF ROY OSWALT SCORED RYAN CHURCH.
CURRENT SCORE: HOUSTON 0, NY METS 3
DUE UP FOR NY METS: J SANTANA (.140, 0 HR, 1 RBI)
Astros 0, Mets 3 Bot 2, 0 OutsAug 22 7:48 PM
AT NY METS - SCORING UPDATE
SINGLE BY DAVID WRIGHT SCORED JOSE REYES.
SITUATION: 1 RUN IN, D WRIGHT ON FIRST, 1 OUT
CURRENT SCORE: HOUSTON 0
NY METS 1 BOTTOM, 1ST
DUE UP FOR NY METS: C DELGADO (.262, 26 HR, 84 RBI)
Astros 0, Mets 1 Bot 1, 0 OutsAug 22 7:29 PM
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