McDonald: The Real Johan Santana is Back

Pitchers tend enjoy watching each other hit, so when Johan Santana took Matt Maloney deep last night for his first home run in – well – ever, the rest of the staff had to chime in.

“You tell him, he will never hit another one again,” laughed closer Frankie Rodriguez. “He grabbed a bat and was walking around the dugout saying he was going to hit one out.”

Of course with Santana leading the staff in home runs, other pitchers have to get their shot.

“As soon as he hit it, [Mike Pelfrey] ran in to the cage and started taking some extra batting practice,” deadpanned R.A. Dickey with the righthander in earshot and added, “So I have to hit one now, that’s how it works.”

The bottom line is that Santana finally found the formula to get himself back in the win column. As Jerry Koosman once said, “Shut them out and hit one out. Then you got yourself a win.”

And it seems like Santana needed the third home run to win this one, as the Mets still struggled to score runs. Only a fortunate sixth inning gave the ace some cushion in route to his sixth win of the year.

But it’s been like that for Santana all season. With very few runs behind him, he had no room for error. Unfortunately it meant he went through his rough patch in June, while the Mets were piling up the wins. But as the page turned to July it seemed to be Santana time.

He is 61-19 with a 2.73 ERA during the second half of the season. In 2008, he went 9-0 down the stretch and now it looks like he’s doing it again. Santana made a change in his arm angle, which is allowing his fastball a more explosive look, going back to the low-90s. Couple that with a change in his motion, which stopped tipping his pitches and you can see why he’s the Johan Santana of old.

“I am throwing my fastball much better,” Santana said. “And that makes my other pitches better.”

Especially his changeup, which is deadly.

“You saw hitters taking that changeup before,” said manager Jerry Manuel, “where tonight you saw it’s like he pulls the bat through the strike zone with that changeup.”

That’s why Manuel quickly retreated to the dugout with one out in the ninth and runners on first and second after Jason Bay’s error. The look on his ace’s face told the story.

“I’ll finish it,” he said.

And two pitches later he did ending an almost perfect night by the Mets ace.

Rodriguez may be right in that Santana may never hit another home run, but who cares? The most important thing is that the real Johan Santana is back.

Posted under Ace, Arm Angle, Batting Practice, Bottom Line, Changeup, Dugout, Earshot, Era, Fastball, Jerry Koosman, Joe Mcdonald, Johan Santana, Matt Maloney, Mcdonald, Mets, Mike Pelfrey, New York Mets, Pitchers, Rough Patch, Second Half, Sixth Inning, Tipping His Pitches, Top Story

This post was written by Joe McDonald on July 7, 2010

Delcos: Pelfrey’s Season Turns Rocky

The replays didn’t show whether, or where, Mike Pelfrey’s errant fastball clipped Scott Rolen, but how the Mets’ pitcher responded to not getting that call, and not getting a later call on a strike to Drew Stubbs was the backdrop of Cincinnati’s six-run fifth inning and subsequently last night’s loss to the Reds.

Pelfrey didn’t lose last night because he didn’t get a couple of calls. He lost because of his reaction to not getting those calls.

Whereas Pelfrey had been composed most of this season, he became flustered and unnerved. Whereas he had minimized damage he dug himself into a hole the Mets could not dig out of. His body language spoke of frustration and anger.

Pelfrey couldn’t stop the bleeding. He didn’t do his job, which, is when things go awry to remember he still needs to get outs.

“I thought, for the first time in over a year, I let my emotions get the best of me,’’ Pelfrey said. “And, that wasn’t very good on my part.’’

Pelfrey’s last few starts did not have the crispness he’s had all season.  He gave up seven runs last night and 11 in his past two starts, neither of which he made it out of the fifth. He’s given up runs in the first inning of his last six games. All of a sudden, he’s been susceptible to the home run.

While the All-Star talk has died down, it’s too early to say if he’s regressed of simply hit a rough patch. Maybe he’s going threw a dead arm period. I don’t know. But, what I do know is Pelfrey has pitched too good for too long in the first half for panic.

That he acknowledged his downfall and accepted responsibility is a great sign, another step in his ascension to becoming an All-Star caliber pitcher.

Perhaps more than any other start he’s made in the first half, Saturday’s game against Atlanta could be his most interesting if not revealing.

Posted under All Star, Anger, Ascension, Backdrop, Body Language, Caliber, Dead Arm, Downfall, Drew Stubbs, Emotions, Fastball, Fifth Inning, Frustration, John Delcos, Mike Pelfrey, New York Mets, Reds, Replays, Rough Patch, Scott Rolen, Seven Runs, Six Games, Top Story

This post was written by John Delcos on July 6, 2010