Stephen Strasburg allowed two hits in six scoreless innings to outduel Johan Santana and the Washington Nationals beat the Mets, 4-0, in Wednesday afternoon's rubber game. After opening the season with four straight wins, the Mets headed into Thursday's off-day losers of two straight and tied with the Nats atop the division standings.
After mustering a season-low three hits and issuing 10 walks in the series finale against Washington, the Mets attempt to regroup in Philadelphia on Friday night, when R.A. Dickey opposes Cliff Lee. Jon Niese then faces Vance Worley on Saturday, followed by Mike Pelfrey and Cole Hamels on Sunday.
By the way, on the Citi Field revised dimension tracker, the Mets now have taken advantage of the new specs for two additional homers, whereas opponents have yet to capitalize. Lucas Duda went deep in the fourth inning Saturday against Atlanta's Jair Jurrjens, while Kirk Nieuwenhuis took advantage in the fourth inning two days later against Washington's Edwin Jackson.
I'll be chatting Mets at SportsNation at 11 a.m. today. Please join me here.
Thursday's news reports:
• Santana tossed 99 pitches, four over the soft cap Terry Collins had publicly identified, and the southpaw's highest pitch count in any organized game since Aug. 28, 2010. With a short bench minus active David Wright, Collins used Santana to bunt in the bottom of the fifth. Santana tossed 84 pitches in his first 2012 start. Collins said the Mets actually hoped to keep Santana to 105 pitches Wednesday, not 95. He was removed Wednesday after a six-pitch leadoff walk in the sixth to Jayson Werth. The lone run to score against Santana came on a second-inning wild pitch. He became the sixth pitcher in franchise history to limit an opponent to no more than one run in each his first two starts to a season and yet not be credited with at least one win. The others: Pat Mahomes (2000), Pete Harnisch (1995), Rick Anderson (1986), Ron Darling (1985) and Don Cardwell (1969). Read game recaps in the Star-Ledger, Times, Record, Journal, Daily News, Post and Newsday.
• Collins expressed confidence Wright will return to the lineup Friday, four days after suffering a fracture to his right pinkie diving back into first base on a pickoff throw from the Nats' Jackson. (Of course, the manager initially also wishfully believed Wright's abdominal tear would be a day-to-day thing.) Wright, who received a customized splint Wednesday, is due to see a hand specialist at the Hospital for Special Surgery today. "I'm not a doctor," Collins told reporters. "I don't mean to step on the doctor's toes. I will never do that. But when they give us a final diagnosis of the whole thing, my gut tells me that you'll see him Friday."
After Wright's Thursday visit to the specialist, there may be more clarity about whether a disabled list trip is required. If Wright lands on the DL, Collins expects to shift Daniel Murphy to third base. Wright has only been on the DL twice in his career -- after a 2009 beaning by San Francisco's Matt Cain that resulted in a concussion, and last season after discovering he was playing with a stress fracture in his lower back. Read more in Newsday and the Star-Ledger.
• Columnist Bob Klapisch in the Record offered this review of Santana-Strasburg and the Mets' three-hit attack:
That’s the surcharge they’re paying for David Wright’s injury: Without him, the lineup looks lost, rudderless. Ike Davis is a walking ghost with one hit in his first 20 at-bats, and Lucas Duda (.136) and Jason Bay (.158) aren’t much better. In all, the Mets struck out 15 times, and not just because of Strasburg. Washington’s relief corps registered six of the last nine outs with punch-outs. The effect was impossible to ignore -- it was as if the four-game winning streak never happened. Collins watched in disgust as the Mets issued 10 walks, seven by his relievers in the last four innings. And he couldn’t help but criticize the Mets’ passivity at the plate, noting in particular how many pitches they took “right down the middle.” This underscores just how narrow the Mets’ axis of success really is. They can’t generate enough offense without Wright, and they’ll soon need Santana to go deeper than five or six innings per start.
• Columnist David Lennon in Newsday echoed the concern about a Wright-less lineup. Wrote Lennon:
This lineup, as currently constructed, can't sustain Wright's prolonged absence. The only righthanded threat, and we're using that term loosely here, is Bay and he's 3-for-19 with eight strikeouts after whiffing twice more Wednesday. Ike Davis snapped an 0-for-18 opening skid with his sixth-inning single to avoid tying Todd Pratt for the dubious record of hitless streak for a Mets position player to start a season. It was one of only three hits by the Mets as they slipped to .167 (9-for-54) with runners in scoring position. Wright, remember, was batting .583 (7-for-12) with a .647 on-base percentage, a home run and four RBIs before he injured his finger diving back to first base. The Mets can't come close to replacing that. Not now, anyway.
• Wrote columnist Bill Madden in the Daily News:
You could just feel the pall once again settling in over Citi Field as all the dire prognostications for this Mets team seemed back on track. Ordinarily, a 4-2 home stand in which Johan Santana turned in two strong, almost vintage, though abbreviated outings would be cause for optimism -- if only all the things Terry Collins privately worried about hadn’t reared their ugly heads so quickly.
• Columnist Joel Sherman at his Post blog advocates MLB creating a seven-game DL because of situations like Wright's knuckle injury. Writes Sherman:
Would some teams abuse the seven-day DL as a way, for example, to remove a starter who wasn’t going to play seven days anyway and get an additional player on for a week? Probably. But you can minimize the abuses by a) Making it a seven-game, not seven-day DL so that off-days and/or rainouts cannot be used to manipulate. b) Create an injury clearing house at MLB whereby any seven-game DL stint has to be signed off on by a doctor not affiliated with the team. c) Not allow the use of the seven-game DL after the All-Star game, so teams are not abusing the privilege during a pennant stretch. Remember that rosters can expand to 40 men after Sept. 1 anyway.
• Ike Davis' sixth-inning single Wednesday snapped an 0-for-18 start. It was the longest season-opening skid by a Mets position player since Todd Pratt opened the 2001 season hitless in 19 at-bats, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Jason Bay, meanwhile, went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts as his average dipped to .158. Collins was ejected by plate umpire Larry Vanover for arguing a called third strike against Bay. “I actually feel pretty good," Bay told reporters afterward. "I’ve faced some good pitching the last couple days and it’s really a matter of just building on it. I feel like I’m having good at-bats as far as seeing the ball and doing certain things. There were times the last few years you’re kind of guessing and not even close. But I don’t feel like I’m there at all.” Read more in Newsday and the Daily News.
• Duda had an entertaining Q&A with Steve Serby in the Post. The exchange includes:
Q: Bo Jackson was your boyhood idol?
A: Bo Knows Everything. Bo Knows tennis, Bo Knows cycling, Bo Knows bowling ... I had that picture of him where he had like the football pads and he had like a baseball bat in his hand and ... cycling shorts on. I just think he was a freak athlete. It’s awesome to see anybody climb up a wall and run two steps on the side of the wall and catch a ball.
• Sean Ratliff, who underwent four eye surgeries and missed all of last season after being struck late in 2011 spring training with a foul ball, played his first regular-season game on Wednesday night since Sept. 6, 2010. Ratliff started in left field for Class A St. Lucie. Meanwhile, in Triple-A Buffalo's home opener, Zach Lutz launched two homers in a win against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees. Read the full minor league recap here.
• On the 50th anniversary of the first game in Mets history, Roger Craig threw out the ceremonial first pitch at Citi Field before Wednesday's game. Craig started Game 1 for the 40-120 Amazin's, on April 11, 1962 -- an 11-4 loss at St. Louis. Read more in the Record, Post and Newsday.
• Strasburg was allowed to reach the 100-pitch plateau for the first time. Read more in the Times.
• 1986 Met Ray Knight said in a radio interview he has felt shunned by the organization, according to the Daily News. "I’ve never been able to get anybody from the Mets to really call me," Knight said, the newspaper reported. “I get invited to the big events, but the Mets have just never treated the players the way the other clubs do. Detroit, Houston, Cincinnati, I always get notes, cards, stuff from them. I never get anything from the Mets. I don’t know what I did to the front office. I always tried to be a professional and comport myself with class. But I’ve never had anybody act as if it mattered.”
• Mike Harrington profiles Jordany Valdespin in the Buffalo News. Valdespin started a fifth straight game in center field Wednesday.
TRIVIA: Strasburg beat the Mets on Wednesday in his second career start against them. Which current MLB pitcher had the most starts against the Mets before finally being credited with a win?
Wednesday's answer: The other six active MLBers who have 500 career RBIs and primarily play third base, along with Washington's Ryan Zimmerman and Wright: Alex Rodriguez, Chipper Jones, Scott Rolen, Aramis Ramirez, Adrian Beltre and Eric Chavez.