Desperate for a psychological boost, the New York Mets had the right man on the mound.
Johan Santana snapped the Mets out of their recent doldrums, pitching seven effective innings to beat the feisty Florida Marlins, 5-3, last night at Shea Stadium.
"He's the guy that we look for to stop the bleeding, and that's what he did tonight," manager Willie Randolph said. "That's what he gets paid to do."
One day after the embattled Randolph kept his job - for now - following a much-publicized meeting with ownership, New York improved to 24-26 with its fifth victory in 15 tries.
"They gave me a vote of confidence? Is that what you call it?" Randolph said with a belly laugh. "We needed a win real bad."
Helped by some fine defense, Santana (6-3) worked around eight hits and two walks. He allowed three runs and struck out seven. "Every outing is a new experience for me," said Santana, who earned his 99th major league win. "Hopefully, we'll get some momentum going."
Billy Wagner fanned two in a 1-2-3 ninth for his 10th save in 12 chances. With his 368th save, Wagner passed Jeff Reardon for sole possession of sixth place on the career list. "We've got a championship-caliber team," Wagner said. "Winning cures all illness and problems."
In other Mets news, Pedro Martinez (strained left hamstring) is scheduled to make a minor league rehab start and could rejoin the rotation early next week in San Francisco, if all goes well.
In other games last night:
* At Chicago, Aramis Ramirez and Kosuke Fukudome capped a three-run seventh with run-scoring hits to lead the Cubs to a 3-1 victory over the Dodgers.
In Dodgers news, outfielder Andruw Jones will likely miss 4 to 6 weeks after surgery to repair torn cartilage in his right knee.
* At Cincinnati, Adam Dunn hit a three-run homer and 21-year-old centerfielder Jay Bruce went 3-for-3 in his eagerly awaited debut, leading the Reds to a 9-6 victory over Pittsburgh. Bruce had a pair of singles, a double, two walks, a stolen base and two RBI, drawing multiple standing ovations.
* At Milwaukee, Bill Hall entered as a defensive replacement in the ninth and scored the winning run as the Brewers beat the Braves, 3-2. Atlanta's Matt Diaz left the game with a left knee strain and laceration that required stitches.
* At St. Louis, Shawn Chacon won his second straight start after nine no-decisions to open the year and Hunter Pence had a career-best five hits in Houston's 8-2 victory over the Cardinals.
* At Phoenix, Bengie Molina and Jose Castillo homered to help Tim Lincecum earn his seventh victory in San Francisco's 6-3 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks.
* At San Diego, Adrian Gonzalez and Kevin Kouzmanoff homered on consecutive pitches with two outs in the seventh inning, and the Padres beat Washington, 4-2, in a matchup of last-place teams. *