It wasn't a no-hitter, but Johan Santana's scoreless outing last week calmed some fears that he might have emptied the tank during his milestone start at the beginning of the month.
Santana hopes to keep heading in the right direction tonight with a third straight win as the New York Mets open up a three-game series against the Chicago Cubs.
The left-handed Santana is 4-1 over his last five starts with three scoreless outings over that period. That of course includes the first no-hitter in Mets history, which Santana threw on June 1 versus the Cardinals.
The former Cy Young winner allowed 10 runs over 10 innings over his next two starts, taking a loss to the Yankees while escaping with a win over the Rays, but returned to form on Tuesday with six scoreless frames to best the Orioles. The 33-year-old allowed four hits and two walks while striking out five to improve to 5-3 with a 3.00 earned run average in 14 starts this year.
"That no-hitter took it out of him," Mets manager Terry Collins said of Santana. "I'm not sure the adrenaline didn't wipe him out for a week but I thought he was much sharper today."
Santana has posted a 1.16 ERA in eight starts at home, but has struggled to a 1-2 mark and 6.37 ERA in six on the road. He could put those issues to rest for an outing tonight given that he is 3-0 with a 1.65 ERA in six career meetings with the Cubs. That includes three starts and a total of just five earned runs allowed over 27 1/3 innings of work.
Opposing Santana will be Travis Wood, who looks to build off his first victory in a Cubs uniform.
The 25-year-old pitched six innings at the White Sox on Tuesday and yielded a run on four hits and four walks while striking out five. That was good enough to earn a 2-1 decision and outduel the ChiSox's Jake Peavy.
Wood, who earned his first win since Aug. 19 of last year while with the Reds, is 1-3 with a 4.14 ERA in seven starts, but is pitching to a 2.66 ERA in four road appearances.
The 25-year-old will face the Mets for the first time since his second big- league start on July 5, 2010. He did not get a decision on that day, charged with five runs -- three earned -- on six hits over 4 2/3 frames.
New York will try to avoid a third straight loss this evening after dropping the final two games of its series with the Yankees. The Mets, who had won four straight before the setbacks, were handed a 6-5 setback in last night's rubber match.
R.A. Dickey, coming off consecutive one-hitters, was charged with five runs over five innings of a no-decision. He had a string of 44 2/3 innings without allowing an earned run snapped, which was the second-longest in club history behind Dwight Gooden's 49 straight scoreless innings in 1985.
"When you throw two straight one-hitters, you're doing everything right. He might have been off a little bit," the Yankees' Mark Teixeira said about Dickey. "He threw a couple of pitches to me that there was no chance I was going to be able to hit them."
Andres Torres and Ruben Tejada had two RBI apiece in a losing effort, while reliever Miguel Batista gave up a game-deciding homer in the eighth to take the loss.
Should the Mets carry a lead into the ninth inning tonight, Bobby Parnell will likely be called upon to finish off the game if needed after closer Frank Francisco was placed on the disabled list on Sunday with a left oblique strain. Parnell struggled in a closer's role audition last season and is 1-1 with a 3.19 earned run average in 36 games this season.
The Cubs were swept in three games by the Diamondbacks over the weekend, giving them a loss in four straight and eight of 11. They were handed a 5-1 defeat in Sunday's finale.
Alfonso Soriano hit a home run to account for the only run for the Cubs, while starter Matt Garza was touched for three runs on five hits with a walk and seven strikeouts over seven innings of work.
"Losing like we're losing now is tough," said Soriano. "Especially because no one here likes to lose. We have to get ourselves together here."
The Cubs won four of six over the Mets a season ago.