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Santana sensational as Mets shutout Braves: 1-0

Opening Day at Citi Field. Photo by: Stacy Podelski

The New York Mets (1-0) opened up the 2012 season in fine fashion, as ace Johan Santana and company helped to shutout the Atlanta Braves (0-1) by a final score of 1-0 in MLB action on Thursday.

“I am happy with the way everything turned out today,” Santana said after the start. “Finally I have an opportunity to go out and pitch in a game that counts and get it out of the way that was definitely very important.”

New York improved their winning percentage on Opening Day to a major league-best .647 (33-18) after the victory, as the Mets have won 33 of their last 43 games, and six of their last seven.

This is the first time the Mets have blanked an opponent since 1998, when they defeated the Phillies, 1-0, in 14 innings at Shea Stadium. The Mets sent out four other pitchers to hold Atlanta to four hits, which is the second-lowest total the franchise has allowed on Opening Day.

“It is one game, but it is very important for us to get off to a good note,” said Mets manager Terry Collins after the victory. “We have been preaching all spring that we can play with anybody and if we can pitch we can compete.”

Santana, who missed all of last season recovering from shoulder surgery, had a fine start tossing 5.0 scoreless innings only allowing two hits.  The performance by the lefty lowered his career Opening Day ERA to 3.06 (12 runs/35.1 innings) and his Mets Opening Day ERA to 1.52 (four earned runs 23.2 innings).

“I am still working and getting back to where I was before the surgery,” Santana said. “The way we are approaching everything, we are trying to be very careful-but at the same time trying not to think about it.”

Santana continued by saying, “I was able to go out there and throw my pitches and not think about it, I just wanted to try to be myself and I think as I go out there and do it more, I think it will definitely get better.”

In front of the largest crowd at Citi Field, there were a ton of positive signs for the Orange and Blue faithful. Aside from the tenacity of Santana, the offense had offensive contributions from Daniel MurphyDavid Wright, and Josh Thole who all had two hits each.

Wright had the game-winning run, as he drove home the first run of the game in the sixth inning. The All-Star third baseman has at least one hit in every home opener, since making his first Opening Day start in 2005.

“To have David come off and have that big hit means a lot to him,” Collins said of the clutch RBI that Wright had. “This guy is a real proud pro and he had a tough year last year, and he told me last year that he was going to get better-today is the start of a long year but it is good to see.”

Another great sight was the newly vamped bullpen as Ramon RamirezJon Rauch and Frank Francisco all contributed to the victory. Ramirez tossed 1.1 innings of two-hit ball to earn the victory, as Santana was taken out before his teammates could drive in the first run of the game.

“Ramon is the guy because of the way he pitches, especially against that line-up,” Collins said of his reliever. “He had success against lefties and there were a ton of good ones in the batter’s box, I thought that (top sixth inning) was the situation to bring him in.”

On his pen, Collins had this to say, “We could not have set it up any better and they all came in and delivered.”

In the scary moment of the game, newly acquired center fielder Andres Torres left the game in the seventh inning with a strained left calf.

“Andres passed every single test that he could, so that he could be ready to play,” Collins said of the injury to his center fielder. “I don’t think this is as bad as the one he got in Florida, but still when you rely on your legs it is a serious injury.”

Throughout the course of the game, Mets-great Gary Carter was honored, as the team paid tribute to their former backstop that passed from Brain Cancer.

Before the day started, the current stars came out wearing a Carter 8 uniform, as both friends and family were on hand to remember the legacy of the fallen star. Darryl Strawberry and Mookie Wilson both took time in a special press conference to honor ‘The Kid.’

“Opening Day was always exciting for all of us,” Strawberry said that press conference. “I remember on Opening Day in 1985, that was his first day and he hit the home run, right there you just knew that we had just turned a corner and that we were on our way to becoming a team that would win a championship.”

The Carter family was also on hand to unveil the ‘Kid 8’ tribute logo, which now adorns the left field wall, next to the Mets 50th anniversary logo. There was also a ceremonial first pitch thrown out by those family members and a moment of silence.

New York will have a day off before finishing up the three-game series with the Braves on Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday it’ll be knuckleball specialist R.A. Dickey (8-13, 3.28 ERA in 2011) taking on Braves starter Jair Jurrjens.

The Mets/Braves game is set to air on the SNY network, with first pitch slated for 1:10 p.m.

Written on April 5, 2012 also seen on the Examiner.com site below:


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