New York Mets (26-21) manager Terry Collins must be a clairvoyant, either that or it was just good timing by his team-as both Mike Nickeas and the rest of the squad heated up for a 9-0 victory over the San Diego Padres (17-31) on Saturday afternoon baseball.
In his pre-game press conference Collins had stated how he had hoped that with the hotter weather, meant hotter at-bats for his team. That was certainly the case as the Mets were able to hit a season-high three long balls in the victory, the last time they accomplished that feat was on April 7 against Atlanta.
Collins had also spoke of the power that catcher Mike Nickeas has, and the Mets backstop showed it off by hitting his first career grand slam in the bottom of the eighth inning. Nickeas became It was the first Mets’ grand slam since Jason Bay on September 8, 2011 vs. Atlanta (Game One), as Mike was able to finish with a career-high four RBI in the game.
“He needed that,” Collins said of the Nickeas Grand Slam. “Andres Torres said to me before the game today that, ‘I’ve never been on a team that cares so much about each other’ and just to have Mike get a big hit-it didn’t have to be a Grand Slam-it could have been anything. They just pull for each other so much and it is exciting to see him get a bit hit like that.”
All of the power in addition to a superb shutout start by Johan Santana helped to lead the Mets to a season best-tying five games over the .500 mark with this victory. For Santana, the four-hit blanking of the Padres was the ninth of his career and the first since August 12, 2010 vs. Colorado.
“He has a feel for pitching that I haven’t been around to many that have that feel like he has,” Collins said. “That is why he competes though his stuff isn’t the same like it was five years ago, he knows how to pitch, he pitches his game and today was the best command of all the pitches that I’ve seen this year.”
Probably the most impressive fact for those watching the ace, was the fact that he was performing at this level after having surgery to repair a torn anterior capsule. It is something that not many big leaguers have come back from, never mind pitching a shutout.
“We were talking about that in Spring Training, how nobody has come back from that surgery,” said Collins. “When you put in the work that he has-if there is anyone that can come back from this injury-it is him.” The manager continued to say, “Dan (Warthen) said could you imagine this, especially this early in the season. He (Santana) told us, he said two weeks ago that it is going to be a different guy in June.”
The ace-lefty is the first Mets pitcher to throw a shutout since Miguel Batista’s two-hitter beat Cincinnati, 3-0 on the last day of the 2011 season. Santana sat down seven batters throwing 96 pitches, staying in the strike zone for most of the day.
New York after having a sizzling batting-practice game out the gates swinging for power as Vinny Rottino and Scott Hairston both had balls land in the Party City Deck. Those homers combined with Nickeas’ in the eighth was the first time this season that there have been multiple ‘new’ Citi Field long balls in a single game.
Continuing his red-hot stretch at the dish as of late was Ike Davis, who drove home a run with a pinch-hit double in the eighth inning, the first baseman has hit in four consecutive games (.444, 4-for-9). In the bad news department Ronny Cedeno, left the game with a leg cramp-no word on if the shortstop will have to miss any time.
“As Ike keeps getting hot we get more dangerous,” said Collins on the streak that Davis has been on. As for the game, “Obviously what you saw today was what we were hoping to do in Spring Training and that is put the ball in seats. We have rode David for so long and finally we have got some other guys stepping up and helping out”
Fans will be in for a treat as it will be Banner Day for the finale between the Mets and the Padres on Sunday. There will also be a pitcher’s duel on the hill as knuckleball specialist R.A. Dickey (6-1, 3.45 ERA) takes on Edison Volquez (2-4, 3.49 ERA).
Though R.A. has never beaten the Padres in two career starts, the righty is coming off recording his team-leading sixth victory in the 3-2 decision over the Pirates at PNC Park on May 22. Dickey was able to strike out a career-high 11 batters, while walking none in that game.
The Mets/Padres finale is set for 1:10 p.m. and will air on the SNY network.
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