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Thursday, April 5, 2012
Rapid Reaction: Mets 1, Braves 0

By Adam Rubin

Recap | Box score | Photos

WHAT IT MEANS: Johan Santana is back. And the Mets again were winners on Opening Day, improving their MLB-best mark to 33-18 in season openers, thanks to an RBI single from David Wright and clutch relief from Tim Byrdak only 23 days after undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee.

The Mets announced a Citi Field-record attendance of 42,080.

The only drawback in the 1-0 win against Atlanta: Center fielder Andres Torres is lost with a strained left calf, the same injury that sidelined him during spring training. That likely lands Ruben Tejada in the leadoff spot, with Daniel Murphy the only alternative.

Frank Francisco, who received a cortisone shot Sunday for left knee inflammation and had not pitched since, tossed a scoreless ninth to notch his first Mets save.

YO! Santana tossed five scoreless innings in his first major league game since undergoing surgery on Sept. 14, 2010, to repair a torn anterior capsule in his left shoulder.

After a one-out single by Martin Prado in the first, Santana retired 12 straight Braves until Matt Diaz doubled with one out in the fifth. Santana then walked the Nos. 8 and 9 hitters, rookie Tyler Pastornicky and pitcher Tommy Hanson, to load the bases. But the southpaw escaped the bases-loaded jam by retiring Michael Bourn on a comebacker to complete his outing at 84 pitches (50 strikes).

Santana allowed two hits, struck out five and walked two.

His fastball registered 86-89 mph, consistent with the velocity in his final Grapefruit League outing 10 days ago -- and more than enough to twice strike out Dan Uggla swinging at changeups.

Mike Baxter pinch hit for Santana and was called out on strikes to end the fifth inning and strand two runners.

Santana's pitch count was four shy of his longest Grapefruit League outing. He tossed 88 pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals in his last outing.

OUCH: Torres came up lame pursuing a shot to right-center off the bat of Pastornicky in the seventh inning, reinjuring his strained left calf. Torres had just returned to Grapefruit League action Monday. It looks like Torres will land on the DL, resulting in the promotion of Kirk Niewenhuis -- or perhaps Vinny Rottino -- from Buffalo.

BIG BYRD: A half-inning after Torres walked, advanced to third on Murphy's second hit of the afternoon, and scored on Wright's single, the Braves threatened to even the score at 1. That's when Byrdak came up big.

Pastornicky was credited with a one-out triple against Ramon Ramirez in the seventh on the play where Torres came up lame. But Byrdak -- only three weeks and two days after knee surgery -- entered and consecutively struck out Jose Constanza and Bourn to strand the potential tying run.

Wright, by the way, has a hit in every Opening Day since his first, in 2005. Josh Thole, Murphy and Wright had two hits apiece.

SUB: With the Mets nursing a one-run lead, Ronny Cedeño replaced Murphy at second base for the ninth inning.

WHAT'S NEXT: Jon Niese takes a physical Friday, and then his new deal -- which guarantees him $26 million over five years -- should be announced Saturday. The Mets are off tomorrow. The series resumes Saturday at 1:10 p.m. with R.A. Dickey, now MLB’s lone knuckleballer, opposing Braves right-hander Jair Jurrjens.