NEW YORK (AP) -Any chance
can pitch on no days' rest?
Desperate to stay in the playoff race, the
New York Mets
brought back their ace early and Santana delivered, pitching a three-hitter that led them over the
2-0 on a rainy Saturday.
Nearly two hours later, the Mets pulled into a tie with Milwaukee for the NL wild card when the Brewers lost 7-3 to the
. New York's hopes of an NL East title are gone, however, after Philadelphia clinched the division title with a 4-3 win over
''I just went out there and tried to finish it. I didn't do anything crazy,'' Santana said. ''I knew the situation we were
With the crowd standing and chanting his name, Santana (16-7) assured the Mets will play at least one more meaningful game
at Shea Stadium. The win was just the third in eight games for New York and put aside - for a day, anyway - thoughts of another
''What's the headline going to be tomorrow?'' wondered Marlins rookie
, who went 0-for-4 and struck out twice. ''Is he the 'Shea-vior?'''
Now, it's up to
to try to help save the Mets' season Sunday in the final regular-season game on their schedule. No chance of seeing Santana
in that one.
''How many did he pitch? How many did he throw?'' manager
said with a grin. ''Wow, wow, wow, wow. I think if I had to describe that one, I would say that was gangsta. That was real
If the Mets and Brewers remain even after Sunday, they would play a one-game tiebreaker Monday in New York. Milwaukee is scheduled
to send ace CC Sabathia to the mound Sunday against the Cubs.
''We're still in the race. It's not over yet,'' Santana said.
Well before the first pitch, Manuel was asked whether his postgame plans involved sticking around the clubhouse to watch his
rivals on TV.
''If ...'' he started, quickly amending to, ''when we win, I'll just get dressed and go home.''
As the Mets left their locker room, one TV was tuned to Brewers-Cubs and the other showed college football. The wild card
was more easily in reach, but the Mets hadn't given up hope of catching Philadelphia and forcing a division tiebreaker at
Citizens Bank Park.
Hand written on the Mets' bulletin board: ''If Phillies lose, come packed for one day.''
No such luck for New York.
Santana had never gone only three days between regular-season starts - he did it once during the 2004 AL playoffs. He needed
a career-high 125 pitches in his last outing, and he threw 117 in keeping the Mets' shaky relievers in the bullpen.
The NL ERA leader improved to 9-0 in 17 starts since late June, striking out nine and walking three in his sixth career shutout.
''I saw those guys swinging and swinging and putting the ball in play,'' Santana said. ''I didn't think about tomorrow, I
thought about today.''
Santana had asked Manuel to pitch this game, and everyone at Shea knew what was at stake. After last year's monumental fold,
a loss here might've doomed the Mets to a similar fate.
Manuel's revamped lineup produced a run in the first inning, and that turned out to be all Santana required.
Acquired in an offseason trade with Minnesota to win big games, Santana became the first Mets pitcher to throw a shutout on
three days' rest since
''You couldn't have pulled him out. He wouldn't have let you,'' Manuel said.
The Marlins left the bases loaded in the fifth and threatened again in the ninth, but
flied out to the warning track in left with a runner on to end it. Santana received hearty congratulations on the mound, and
waved his cap to the crowd as he walked off.
''It's the best thing I've ever seen, given the situation,'' Mets pitcher
The win meant Perez gets his chance to pitch on three days' rest Sunday. The last time he did it, the Mets lefty tossed a
real gem - six sharp innings in Game 7 of the 2006 NL championship series against St. Louis.
Now, there's a chance that Sunday's farewell-to-Shea ceremony with
and other former Mets won't necessarily be a somber one.
(15-8) nearly matched Santana, striking out 10 in seven innings.
, batting third for the first time this season, hit a sacrifice fly in the first. The inning included a single by
, hitting cleanup for the first time this year.
, a late-season bonus for the Mets, hit an RBI double in the fourth.
Marlins rookies were also going to dress up, courtesy for the Florida veterans. As part of a prank, the young players were
being made to wear brightly colored outfits festooned with oversized bananas and limes for a night out to Times Square.
It was a fruitful day for the Mets, too, thanks to Santana. And it left them looking ahead.
shouted as he left.
's streak of homering in four straight games ended for the Marlins. ...
(8-11) starts Sunday for Florida.