Menu

BASEBALL

Phillies regain the upper hand on Mets

You needed nothing more than common sense to interpret the look on Johan Santana's face as he sat in the visitors' dugout, moments after taking the worst beating of his career. Santana was bewildered and embarrassed by the 10 runs he allowed the Phillies in 3.2 innings – a flogging so unexpected and so traumatic to the Mets, Jeff Francoeur said he and his teammates were left "shell-shocked."

"I've never seen it happen," the right fielder said of Santana's failure to stop the Phillies in a nine-run fourth inning. We'll see how the Mets respond to the 11-5 loss, which followed a 10-0 blowout on Saturday. This much, however, is certain: the Mets allowed the Phillies to peel away several layers of their psychological flesh over the weekend.

Question is: what's underneath? Are the Mets still secretly intimidated by the Phillies? Are they still uncomfortable in front of Citizen Bank Park's aggressive crowds?

"Hopefully, this doesn't carry over into (the next series against the Reds)," David Wright said, assessing the damage. "We've got a quick turnaround. We've got to be ready to play."

What stunned the Mets was how quickly their assumption of greatness was re-written in the span of 18 innings. They figured Mike Pelfrey, riding a streak of 24 consecutive scoreless innings, would at least hold his own against Roy Halladay on Saturday. He never came close, as Halladay toyed with the Mets. With a 6-0 lead after four innings, the Phillies' ace needed just 45 pitches to get through the rest of the game.

As uncomfortable as it was for the Mets to get blown out on a FOX national broadcast, they assumed Santana would make things right Sunday, especially matched up against 47-year-old Jamie Moyer. Santana had allowed just one earned run in his last 16 innings, so it was no stretch to think he could do to the Phillies what Halladay had done to the Mets the day before.

Santana surely believed it: he told reporters in spring training he, not Halladay, was the division's best pitcher, especially with his elbow surgically repaired over the winter.

Only, Santana had none of his usual weapons on Sunday – most notably his fastball, which too often cut the plate in half. The Phillies clubbed Santana for four home runs, which compelled him to state the obvious after it was all over.

"It was one of those days where whatever I did, it didn't work out the way I want," Santana said.

The fourth-inning rally, which was staged with two out, turned Citizens Bank Park into an asylum. Some 45,000 fans sounded like millions who were loving every moment of the Mets' humiliation. Same as it ever was, was the theme in the stands, as the Mets coughed up first place.

The Mets have now lost 9 of their last 11 games on the Phillies' home turf, which means they'll need a radical change if they intend to capture the East in 2010.

Yes, the Mets believed that was possible, at least after the way rookie Jon Niese pulverized the Phillies' lineup in a 9-1 win Friday night. That was its own shocker, as Charlie Manuel ripped into his players, including Shane Victorino, who failed to run out a dropped third strike in the fifth inning.

"I'm concerned about my team," Manuel said after Friday's game. "We've got to improve, we've got to play much better than we've been playing.

"You have to remember, we've got a lot of new guys, 10-11 guys who are new here. They have to realize what we stand for, what we play for. I'll address it at the right time, but we've got to step it up. I'm not saying we're loafing, but we could have more life."

Halladay came to the rescue, as everyone in the Phillies family expected him to. The fact that Manuel allowed his ace to go all nine innings in a rout might've raised a few eyebrows, but as Chase Utley said, "this is what Roy is built for."

Indeed, of Halladay's 32 starts last year with Toronto, 27 of them were seven innings or longer. He's now thrown 31 complete games since 2006, with no sign of letting up. Halladay himself said, "Rule No. 1 is you go as long as you can."

The Phillies are thankful for Halladay's can-do attitude – Manuel said, "I'm glad I have him. I wish I had 12 (pitchers) like him."

But for one night, the most appreciated pitcher on the Phillies' staff was Moyer, and not because of his work on the mound. Instead, it was his ability to work out a two-out bases-loaded walk against Santana that led to the Mets' collapse in the fourth inning.

With a 3-1 count, Moyer fouled off a 91-mph fastball, then calmly took another four-seamer that was up and in. Santana later admitted his fastball was "all over the place."

That set up the back-breaking sequence: Victorino pummeled a grand slam over the wall in left, followed immediately by Utley's solo shot to right.

By then, Mets manager Jerry Manuel realized subjecting Santana to further punishment would have a corrosive effect not just on his ace, but on the rest of his players. Francoeur said, "it all happened so fast we didn't comprehend it until we got in the dugout."

The Phillies were busy high-fiving and head-slapping, convinced they'd put down the insurgency that'd been brewing in Flushing. Brad Lidge is back, Joe Blanton is close and, even without Jimmy Rollins for another few weeks, the Phillies think they're ready to explode on the East.

The Mets? The look on Santana's face said it all: SOS.