Someday it won't be that big a deal that Johan Santana won a home start for the New York Mets. Today it kind of was.
The matter was never in much doubt, but Johan stretched Shea's patience just the tiniest bit there in the sixth as he couldn't quite close the Reds out for the longest time. How long? Thirty-four pitches long. Felt longer.
Who's counting? Well, I just did, with ESPN's help. I only noticed because Johan has yet to lay down one of those Santana masterpieces like the one he dropped off at Shea as a visitor last June (of which we saw the highlights every single day throughout the winter) and, somehow, had not earned a victory here as a Met. I also noticed because as the end of his day approached, the Mets' conclusion was nowhere in sight. In the afternoon portion of a day-night doubleheader, you love that you've got your ace going in the opener. You'd love it more if he could give you seven, eight or — dare we ask for it? — nine innings.
Johan gritted his teeth and got through six. A win is a win (we say that a lot lately) for the team and for the pitcher, but on a minimum 18-inning day, with Mike Pelfrey starting and doing who knows what in a few hours, it would have been swell…sweller…had Santana breezed through the Reds.
So he didn't. So it took ten pitches to strike out David Ross and six more to fan Corey Patterson. By then nobody thought Johan was coming back for the seventh. By then it was an achievement to save the bullpen in the sixth. And he did. And he won. So good for Johan.
Very good for Carlos Beltran in Game One, too. Perhaps Carlos B. has earned enough equity with the ticketed insta-critics so that he has escaped the sort of unconstructive feedback that has fallen on the heads of several of his teammates. Maybe the fans who are quick to boo Delgado and Heilman (and Schoeneweis and Castillo) remember Carlos Beltran was as big a get in 2005 as Johan Santana is in 2008 and are cutting him the slack now that they didn't then. Maybe they remember that the Carlos Beltran of 2006 was MVP-caliber and the 2007 version rode himself hard to the very end. But Carlos Beltran was batting .218 coming into today's first game. Carlos Beltran was having as bad a season as Carlos Delgado.
He's not having a bad season anymore. He looks a great deal like the original zillion-dollar signee and he's playing like he's determined to stay on everybody's good side. A dozen points have been added to his average since this morning and five steaks have been tossed onto his RBI pile. Everybody hit, but Beltran belted. Made a real nice catch as well. Beltran, like Santana, never had a Shea honeymoon, but he's having a pretty placid marriage. May he and Johan continue to make themselves at home.