NEW YORK -- Johan Santana did more than offer to take the ball Saturday.
He demanded it.
"I need to pitch," Santana told Mets manager Jerry Manuel. "There's no tomorrow. I need to pitch."
|Johan Santana is Mr. Clutch for the Mets. (AP)|
And even if things don't go well for the Mets on Sunday, at least Santana gave them a Saturday they won't soon forget.
It's not just that he demanded the ball, and then delivered. It's not just that he shut out the Marlins, allowing only three hits and going the distance on 117 pitches in a 2-0 Mets win. It's not just that he did it all on three days' rest, after throwing a career-high 125 pitches in his win over the Cubs on Tuesday night.
It's that he did it in the most important game of the year, on the biggest regular-season stage possible.
"A once in a lifetime performance," Mets general manager Omar Minaya said.
It's too simple to say this is what the Mets are paying Santana $137.5 million to do, because this one was so good that you started wondering whether the Mets are paying him enough.
Think about it. Santana is 9-0 with a 2.09 ERA since the start of July, and now he stepped up with a game that not only saved the Mets season, but might also go a long way towards saving the Mets' reputation.
"Part of you is in awe," third baseman David Wright said. "Because you know that's something special we were part of today."
It was so special that you wondered whether Santana should now be the front-runner for the Cy Young Award, so special that you almost wanted to give him the Most Valuable Player award as well. It was so special that it made you hope the Mets do make it to the playoffs, just so you can have the pleasure of watching Santana pitch again next week.
"As soon as he started the game, he was on," shortstop Jose Reyes said.