Nobody stepped up to be a stopper for the
New York Mets
during last season's meltdown. That may not be a problem this year with
on the pitching staff.
The final 17 games of 2007 doomed the Mets, but they'll begin their stretch run of this season with a red-hot Santana on the
mound as they open a three-game series with the
on Friday night.
Last year, New York wasted a seven-game lead in the NL East with 17 games to go, losing out to Philadelphia on the final day
of the season. At the same point this year, the Mets (82-63) are trying to hold onto a three-game lead over the Phillies.
"I don't think anybody in here is thinking about what happened last year," New York third baseman
said. "I just think we're going out and finding ways to win. Last year ... It seemed like everything went wrong. This year
when a part of the game goes awry for a day or two another part of the game steps up and gets the job done and that's the
Poor starting pitching was a large contributor to New York's 2007 skid. Mets starters had a 6.49 ERA in the final 17 games.
With Santana (13-7, 2.70 ERA) appearing strong during this stretch run, however, New York has every reason to feel confident
that a similar letdown won't curtail its playoff hopes. Santana is 6-0 with a 2.31 ERA in his last 13 starts, including two
complete games, and the Mets have won each of his last seven outings.
The left-hander earned the win in his last start, giving up two runs and five hits in 7 1-3 innings as New York beat Philadelphia
6-3 on Sunday night in the second game of a doubleheader to help the Mets avoid a three-game sweep.
He improved to 7-3 with a 2.24 ERA - second-best in the NL among starters with at least 40 innings at home - and a .223 opponent
batting average in 14 starts this year at Shea Stadium.
Santana, though, has lost each of his two starts against Atlanta this season despite posting a 2.57 ERA. He is 0-3 with a
2.81 ERA in four career starts versus the Braves.
But Santana shouldn't have much trouble picking up a win if the Mets can put together a third straight outstanding game at
the plate. New York swept a two-game set with Washington, winning the opener 10-8 on Tuesday night and the finale 13-10 the
The Mets have won three straight and 24 of their last 34.
They will now face struggling Braves left-hander
(2-2, 5.60 ERA). He gave up five runs - four earned - and eight hits in seven innings as Atlanta lost 8-5 in 11 innings to
Washington on Saturday night.
Hampton gave up four home runs. He has surrendered at least three homers in a game six times in his career.
Hampton is 10-10 with a 3.20 ERA in 27 starts and two relief appearances versus the Mets. He'll be trying to help Atlanta
win four straight for the first time since a five-game run from May 18-22.
The Braves beat Colorado 8-4 on Thursday night to complete a three-game sweep of a team trying to remain in the NL West hunt.
"We're playing the spoiler," Atlanta second baseman
The Braves have won six of nine following a four-game skid. They've also won seven of 12 games against the Mets this season,
but have lost the last three.
This will be Atlanta's final series at Shea Stadium, with the Mets moving to Citi Field next year.