Flushing, New York

Monday, May 11, 2009

Shhhh....don't say anything! :-)

In our latest venture to 'new' CitiField, we snuck off for a day trip so that we could see the Derek Lowe versus Johan Santana matchup. We were supposed to see Johan the day before (Mothers Day) but because of a rainout the previous week it pushed his start up to Monday.

We parked the car in Newark, as has become the norm for us, and then took the PATH into the city. Our first order of business - lunch! We had looked at a cadre of different options, and settled on an old classic - Katz's Deli on East Houston Street. I had probably the best pastrami on rye I've ever had in my life, and Jill had an awesome turkey sandwich! We washed it all down with a chocolate egg cream - yum!!

After lunch, we walked down to Rivington Street (number 126) to visit the sugar Sweet sunshine bakery. We shared a red velvet cake cupcake (we were still pretty full from lunch!), and although it was okay, Jill's are much better! (I might be a bit biased, but it's the truth!). From there, we walked up to East Seventh Street with the intent of going to Butter Lane cupcakes, but unfortunately it was closed (on Monday afternoon - huh). We grabbed a quick subway ride up to 42nd Street to go to the Mets Store, and there we found yet another bakery! Crumbs Bake Shop was located just up the street from the Mets Store, and across the street from Bryant Park. So, we grabbed a grasshopper cupcake to share and found a nice table in the shade in Bryant Park. Perfect day and a perfect setting!

Then, it was time - time to take the train to the game!! We hopped on the 7 train for the trip to CitiField! We had snagged up a couple of 'club' seats for this game, so we wanted to get there a bit earlier to check out the Caeser's Club. We found it to be a nice space, but as we sat there and looked at all the swanky decor, big screen TV's, and folks there moreso to be seen than to watch the ballgame, we realized that although nice we really weren't 'club' folk, and that we much preferred box seats!

It was a pitchers duel, until they took Santana out in the seventh and then the bullpen fell apart and lost the game for him. All in all, it ended up being a pretty disappointing game for us. We left in about the eighth inning, making our way across the subway and PATH rails, grabbing the car in Newark, and making the drive back to Binghamton.

NEW YORK -- It has become a throwaway line, something we say whenever, even when it has little bearing. Its literal meaning has been softened and obscured by overuse.

But instances exist when the phrase is perfectly applicable. And it was on Monday night when the Braves and the Mets ganged up on Johan Santana. He lost. He allowed not an earned run in 6 1/3 innings and was charged with only two of the unearned variety. The Mets afforded him defensive support that was inadequate and offensive support that was less.

So, go ahead, say it, because the words are so appropriate in this instance: "It happens to the best of 'em."

Santana's loss in the Mets' most unbecoming 8-3 defeat is proof positive of that negative -- it happened, and he is the best.

The Braves beat the best pitcher in the National League. The Mets performed poorly with their primary pitching on the mound. It happens in other circumstances, of course, which is to say, "It happens to the rest of 'em, too." But it tends to go unnoticed when a lesser pitcher is undermined by his own team. We accept it more readily when it does.

Santana said he accepted it, because he is a good teammate. He pointed not one finger, except at himself -- for not hitting, of all things. He could find a smile after an evening of good, not brilliant, pitching and untold frustration. But he was chaffed; he had to be. He gets to perform once every five days. He wants more than a "Nice job" and an "Attaboy." When he shuts down an opponent, he expects to win. When he allows no earned runs, he expects not to lose. And why not? He has made 216 starts in his career and never -- until this season -- lost a start in which he allowed no earned runs. Now it's happened twice in seven starts.

That thought was poking Santana in the chest during the postmortems of the Mets' first loss in eight games and his second loss in six decisions -- one against the Marlins in which he allowed no earned runs in seven innings and now this one, against the Braves, the team he hasn't beaten in six career starts.

Santana said: "It's crazy that it happened twice already -- there's not many things I can do."

Santana has become accustomed to the lack of offense. So when the Mets scored more runs than they had in four of his six previous starts and came up with a mere three, there was no surprise. But their defense hadn't been so dreadful as it was Monday. But Santana took it like a man. His first reaction -- "Just one of those days" -- isn't that different from "It happens to the best of 'em." But he's too modest to say that and too professional to acknowledge it.

So he downplayed the whole thing: "It's not the end of the world just because we lost tonight" is what he said, and he pointed out the Mets still were leading the NL East -- if only by a half-game.

Santana surrendered seven hits, all singles, and a walk, hit a batter and struck out six. He wasn't outpitched by Derek Lowe, but Lowe emerged as the winning pitcher, allowing two runs on five hits and two walks in 6 2/3 innings. Only four of the 20 outs Lowe achieved came on fly balls. He struck out one and defused two potential rallies with double-play ground balls.

The evening had brought Santana's first loss at home -- Shea Stadium and 2009 included -- in 14 games. He lost in a game in which the Mets committed two errors and allowed five unearned runs. The Mets scored once before Santana was removed with a runner on first base and one out in the seventh inning. Three batters after his departure, Jose Reyes muffed a two-out ground ball behind second base, putting runners at second and third. Successive two-run singles by Matt Diaz and Casey Kotchman followed, producing a 5-1 deficit for the Mets.

The Braves did what the Mets often do, scoring in the first inning. The run was unearned because of a throwing error by David Wright. And even the threat that preceded the error would have been averted had Wright made a makeable play at third base. The play in question happened with Yunel Escobar on first base after reaching on a ball Reyes knocked down. Martin Prado followed with a hard ground ball to Wright's left that might have resulted in a double play. But the ball stayed down and bounced under Wright's glove for a single that moved Escobar to second. After Brian McCann popped out, Diaz hit a ground ball to Wright's right. The third baseman fielded the ball cleanly, but his throw to first base bounced away from Fernando Tatis, and Escobar scored.

"You'd like to make all the plays, especially when he's on the hill," Wright said. "You want to have his back. You want to win the games he pitches. We have a different mind-set when he pitches. We're shocked when we don't win."

And now they have lost three of his seven starts. Santana has an 0.78 ERA, the lowest by a Mets starter after seven starts, and they have lost three times.

"I know that the guy would rather have a root canal than give up an earned run," Lowe said. "This guy is just phenomenal to watch. You look at his ERA and just say, 'How is this guy not 7-0?' That's why he's one of the best, if not the best, in baseball."

And sometimes it happens to the best in baseball.

Total Mileage: 360 Miles

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