Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Man

"We need that game, and I need to pitch."
-Johan Santana

Are there any words?

In the long history of great Mets pitching performances, the effort turned in by Johan Santana this afternoon will live on in Mets lore, perhaps no matter what happens tomorrow. With his team's back against the wall, with no margin for error and with three-days' rest, Johan Santana once again proved to everyone watching why he's the premier pitcher in the game today, worthy of the riches and the accolades heaped upon him.
Not that it would be easy. Would he be able to respond to pitching on short rest? Clearly, he was more than up to the task. After virtually begging his manager to take the ball today, Johan proved to be in complete control of everything, scowling his way through an inning of near-misses and non-calls that would certainly have done in a lesser pitcher. He was promised 105 pitches by his manager, and zipped through 8 innings on 104. And yet, there was no question that he would pitch the 9th and finish his job. He found his rhythm early and nothing was going to break him from it. His offense didn't help him much, only scoring a pair of runs, but once he got that lead, it was clear that he was going to give the Marlins an inch. As the game wore on, he only got tougher, stepping on their throats and steaming towards a rousing finish to a masterful performance.
Lately, I've been writing a lot after Santana's starts about how he has stepped up and been the ace that this team has needed him to be. But a game like today's may have been more than that. It has been difficult for the Mets to build on these victories, rousing as some of them have been, as they fight to the finish. And as today's game ended, the Mets were guaranteed of nothing more than a meaningful game tomorrow for a shot to play on Monday. But, the Cubs helped us out, beating the Brewers and restoring a tie for the Wildcard, meaning that if things work out tomorrow, Monday could be academic and the Mets will win outright. But that's tomorrow.

Today, we can revel for a moment, and thank Johan Santana for his truly heroic effort. Thanks to him, tomorrow could be the celebration of celebrations.

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