I missed Johan Santana’s meltdown last night. I saw the David Wright and Rod Barajas home runs, and I watched the last five boring innings, after the game had already been decided. But the big blows — the unconscionable walk to Jamie Moyer with the bases loaded and the Shane Victorino — came while my friends and I were traveling from our hotel to an Atlanta bar to watch the rest of the game. And obviously I have no access to DVR or anything.
So I can’t answer for sure what happened to Johan Santana last night, as everyone seems to be asking this morning. He said he couldn’t command his fastball, and that seems a reasonable explanation. It happens.
His 2010 season lines, including last night’s brutal start, reflect some alarming trends: steadily increasing H/9 and BB/9 with a steadily declining K/9. Of course, that’s all in a very small sample, and Santana’s likely still building up strength off elbow surgery.
What I hope, though, — and the reason I’m writing this from a rainy Interstate between Atlanta and Birmingham — is that this one performance doesn’t give any Mets fan with a short memory enough fodder to wrongfully deem Santana “unclutch.”
It’s one game, for one thing. One regular season game. And yeah, it’s a rubber match of a series with the division rival when the Mets are playing well, but despite all the hype around it, one game just really doesn’t mean all that much. It doesn’t matter who’s in first place by a half game on May 3.
I’ve seen people write in various spots already that a performance like Santana’s last night simply is “not something an ace does.” My response? Apparently it is.
Because Santana is awesome, in all situations. Until we have more evidence that he’s anything but that, we must assume he still is. In the biggest game the Mets have ever asked Santana to pitch, he gave them a shutout on three days’ rest with a torn meniscus in his knee. One crappy start in early May shouldn’t make anyone forget about that, unless you think guys who are clutch can magically go unclutch.
He had a terrible start. It happens. It happened to happen at a bad time. Given how well Santana was pitching coming into the game, and given the fact that he’s Johan Santana, it’d be smart to wait until it happens again before deeming him anything but an ace.