NEW YORK - Johan Santana has two arms, two legs, two eyeballs complete with pupils and irises, all of his major organs and a chest that expands and contracts while his lungs pump oxygen into the bloodstream. He is human, but not since the Mets signed him last offseason has he looked this human, at least not against the Phillies, and certainly not in the Big Apple.
So the fact that the Phillies had twice as many home runs (four) as strikeouts (two) against the ace lefty, yet still left Citi Field with a 6-5 loss last night, is a testament to not only the improved fortitude of this Mets team, but also the various other capabilities possessed by Santana the athlete.
"We got to him," said shortstop Jimmy Rollins, who went 3-for-4 with a two-run home run and is now 5-for-8 since sliding into the No. 6 hole in the lineup. "They just got to us a little better."
The Phillies realized early on that they had a chance to inflict some damage upon Satana, who entered the night 3-0 with a 2.49 in six starts against the Phillies since joining the Mets. Although their first six at-bats against him ended in either strikeouts or weak popups, Rollins said he and his teammates noticed early on that the normal sizzle on his fastball was lacking. Although his changeup was effective, the separation between his two dominant pitches had shrunk, and it wasn't long before the Phillies' bats recalibrated.
Down 3-0 after lefthander J.A. Happ allowed a solo home run to David Wright in the second and a two-run home run to Carlos Beltran in the third, they started to rally in the fourth, getting back-to-back solo home runs from Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez.
They took a 4-3 lead in the sixth on Rollins' two-run home run, which equalled the most earned runs that Santana has allowed in a start this season.
"His velocity was down," Rollins said. "His changeup is always good . . . but it makes a big difference when you are throwing 94 as your top speed as opposed to 91. Guys are a little more comfortable in the box. But more than anything with our at-bats today, everybody was going up there working on getting hits and if [he] left a pitch up and squared up, you'll hit it out of the yard, and that's what happened."
But the Phillies quickly gave back the lead, aided in large part by an RBI double from Santana in the sixth off righthander Clay Condrey. They were unable to take advantage of a big play at the start of the inning, when Howard threw out Fernando Tatis at the plate when he tried to score on a ground ball by Ryan Church. But after Happ left the game, Santos moved Church to second on a single off Condrey, setting up Santana's double that gave the Mets the lead for good.
Santana had initially squared up to bunt on the hit, which came with two strikes, but Condrey said he did not deliver the pitch anticipating a bunt. He simply left it over the middle.
Happ, who allowed four runs on six hits and walked four in 5 1/3 innings, was unhappy with his control. Condrey, meanwhile, took his first loss of the season.
Church added a solo home run off Chad Durbin in the seventh, which proved to be a valuable insurance run when Chase Utley homered off Santana to lead off the eighth.
The Phillies' four home runs off of Santana tied a career-high for the lefty, who allowed that many in a game only once before, on July 23, 2007 against the Blue Jays.
The seven home runs hit at Citi Field last night were the most in the new ballpark since it opened at the beginning of this season.
"We were right there," manager Charlie Manuel said. "We took the lead in the game and we didn't hold them."
The Phillies had a couple of opportunities to score runs against Santana, one in the third inning when Pedro Feliz led off with a double, and one in the eighth when Santana snagged a line drive off Howard's bat and doubled up Jayson Werth at first base.
"He's an athlete," Manuel said. "He moves real well. He's real quick. He fields his position good. That amongst other things."
On a night when some of those "other things" were lacking - namely his fastball - the Phillies came up short. Rollins led off the ninth with a single, but Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez rebounded to strike out Feliz, get a ground ball out from Matt Stairs, and strike out Greg Dobbs to end the game.
With that, the Phillies' lead in the National League East shrunk to two. The goal for the remainder of the series: Make sure it doesn't shrink any further. *