Sabathia, Santana, whatever: if you've got a lefty ace who's just walked the opposing pitcher, Shane Victorino's got a grand slam home run. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
Mets ace Johan Santana had some big talk to back up Sunday night. Asked this spring after the Phillies added Roy Halladay who was the best pitcher in the NL East, the lefty changeup specialist offered his own name. Now, a day after Halladay introduced himself to the Phillies-Mets rivalry with a complete game shutout of the division leaders, Santana had the opportunity to stake his own claim before a national TV audience.
Instead, it was Santana who got staked, suffering through the worst outing of his splendid career as the Phillies exploded for nine fourth-inning runs, turning a 5-2 deficit into an 11-5 laugher and claiming the series win. The first four hitters in the Phils lineup all homered on the evening, every starter had at least one hit, and all but one (Werth) crossed the plate.
Before the fourth, Santana wasn't exactly pitching at Halladay's level but seemed on track to earn a win. New York jumped out to a 3-0 first-inning lead when David Wright connected on a full-count two out pitch for a three run homer off Jamie Moyer. Placido Polanco and Ryan Howard got the Phils within 3-2 with solo homers in the bottom of the first, but the Mets stretched the lead back to three when Rod Barajas, continuing his inexplicable reign of terror against the team for which he performed so badly in 2007, slugged a two-run shot off Moyer in the top of the fourth.
Chase Utley led off the bottom of the inning with a double, but was still at third after Howard flew out to the track and Barajas made a nice play on a Jayson Werth dribbler in front of the plate. Raul Ibanez kept the inning alive and scored Utley with a single, and Juan Castro followed with another single. Santana pitched around Carlos Ruiz, walking him on four pitches to bring up Moyer with the bases loaded. As the decibel level at Citizens Bank Park steadily rose, Moyer got ahead of his fellow lefty 2-0 and 3-1, took a strike to fill up the count, fouled one off--and took ball four inside, forcing home Ibanez to cut the score to 5-4. With the crowd still roaring, Shane Victorino partied like it was October 2008, belting a Santana offering out of the yard to left for a grand slam. Polanco followed with a single, Utley drilled a majestic homer to right, and Santana got the remainder of the evening off. Howard singled and scored on a Werth double against reliever Hisanori Takahashi.
The teams' respective performances after the decisive fourth might have been as telling as the heroics: the Phillies continued to grind, nearly scoring again in the bottom of the fifth when Moyer, Victorino and Polanco all singled with two outs, Moyer getting thrown out at the plate to end the frame. The Phils had two on and one out in the sixth before Ibanez hit into a double play. Meanwhile, the shellshocked Mets abandoned their previously patient approach against Moyer. The ancient one went six up, six down through his last two innings, and relievers Chad Durbin and Danys Baez allowed just one base runner over the final three.