Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Mr. Clutch

Whatever happens over the final 5 games of this season, I don't ever, over the course of the next several seasons, want to hear anyone say that Johan Santana wasn't worth every cent that he is or is going to be paid.

Every time the Mets have gone into a game ready to fold their tents, it seems like Johan Santana has gone to the mound and delivered a performance equal to the moment. All second-half long, Santana has gone to the mound and done what has been asked of him: Throw strikes, get outs, pitch deep into the game and most importantly, give the Mets a chance to win. He did it against St. Louis. He did it against Milwaukee. He did it against Philadelphia. He did it against Washington. And last night, with the entire season on the line, with an entire fan base ready to have one giant, massive coronary, Santana did it against the Cubs, gutting it out for 8 innings and 125 pitches of the highest importance. He kept the game in his own hands, and out of the rather incapable hands of the bullpen as long as was necessary.

Santana was also in the thick of things on the offensive side. Even when he's at the plate, he's trying to get things done. His bizarre broken bat single in the 5th seemed to turn the tide of the game in the Mets favor. Howie Rose noted this on the radio. After Santana's hit, which broke his bat and then somehow hit the bat shard (perhaps some cosmic retribution on the 100th Anniversary of Merkle's boner), the Mets, who to that point had looked rather lifeless, extended the inning long enough for Wright to get the tying hit (even sandwiching a Walk by Luis Castillo in there!). Who scored the tying run? Johan Santana, of course. While this was going on, the Braves, who seem to have this annoying habit of killing the Mets, but bowing down to Philly, fought back in Philly against Cole Hamels and got themselves a lead, and eventually, a win. In the 6th, there was Santana again. Although he grounded into a fielder's choice with the bases loaded and no outs, his grounder forced Ramon Castro at home, erasing the logjam from the basepaths. Jose Reyes followed with a triple that cleared the bases, Santana included, who was able to score rather easily.

Perhaps you can say that David Wright's 2-run single in the 5th was clutch. Perhaps Jose Reyes' triple in the 6th was even more clutch. Nobody delivered as clutch a performance for the Mets on Tuesday night than Johan Santana. He understood the situation, he understood his responsibility and he delivered a career high in pitches in order to ensure his team would win when they absolutely couldn't afford to lose. That's called earning your salary.

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