Jerry Manuel needs to let Santana be the Sabathia of the NL East

It was July 22 of this season and Johan Santana came out of a crucial game against the arch rival Phillies, with both the Mets and Phils tied for first place. Santana held a 5-2 lead, but he declined to pressure manager Jerry Manuel into letting him pitch the 9th, likely preserving the lead and the game. Even though closer Billy Wagner was unavailable for this crucial 9th inning, Santana did not take the ball in the 9th. After 105 pitches, Santana must have felt he was done. (Somewhere, CC Sabathia is snickering).

The Mets bullpen collapses and the Phillies rally for 6 runs and win 8-6.

In various radio segments I do and in an article written on dugoutcentral.com, I blasted Santana for not “manning up” and getting the complete game victory. Those were the types of games the Mets needed Santana to be “the man” when they traded away four prospects over the winter to Minnesota.

After that July 22 game, Santana must have learned the lesson about being the ace of a staff, because since then he has been nothing short of brilliant. Five starts, a 3-0 record and TWO complete game victories, including Sunday’s 3 hit shutout over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

A very big kudos to Johan for those two complete game victories! He deserves the credit for coming through late in the season.

But, Johan’s other two starts since then were no-decision’s, both of which were blown saves by the bullpen and costing Johan two victories. This season the Mets bullpen has cost Santana five victories.

This should not happen any more this season. The Mets should forgo pitch counts for the balance of the season when Santana pitches and allow him to go the distance in almost all the rest of his starts. With the division race (remember when it was the Pennant race?) likely going down to wire again with the Phillies (and possibly the Marlins, too), the Mets need to win every one of Santana’s last 8 or 9 starts.

Santana has pitched very effectively in almost every start for 6 or 7 innings. Jerry Manuel needs to let him know that his job description has been upped to 8 or 9 innings per start. With the Mets bullpen blowing another lead yesterday afternoon, there is no reason for Manuel to ever pull Santana in favor of mediocre middle relievers like Aaron Heilman, Pedro Feliciano, Joe Smith, Scott Schoeneweis and Duaner Sanchez. For example, with a 3-2 lead in the 7th inning in his next start, with men on first and second and one out - I want Santana on the mound in this clutch situation - not any of the above relievers!

Jerry Manuel needs to only worry about making the playoffs this season, and for the remainder of the season not worry about Santana’s pitch count. CC Sabathia (8-0, 1.60 ERA) is the ace of the Milwaukee Brewers staff and last night recorded his 5th complete game since being traded.

Santana has the ability to be the complete game ace the Mets sorely need; he just needs Jerry Manuel be more like Brewers manager Ned Yost.

 

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