Johan Santana took the mound Tuesday night against the best offense in the league.
He was coming off one of his better starts of the year - but that was against Washington, so you had to take it for what it was worth.
So the start against Cincinnati was a good test...a test that Santana passed easily...
And he homered to boot.
The line on Santana - a complete game, 3-hit shutout. He walked three, struck out 5, and hit his first career home run.
He also showed some of the old leadership attitude that I feel we had yet to see from Santana this year - after a bad Jason Bay error in the 9th inning put the tying run at the plate with just one out, Jerry Manuel made a trip to the mound. I think Santana said to Manuel, "I'll finish it," but I don't know if I read his lips right...and Manuel turned around after about 3 seconds on the mound.
And Santana did finish it. And he looked great doing it.
We'll leave Santana's personal issues aside for this start, except to say this - that issue seems to not be following him out to the field, at least based on his last two outings. (His last start at Citi Field came against the Twins, with the accusation news swirling around him, and he did not pitch well, giving up five runs in six innings. So the fact that his shutout was at home was also good news.)
So back-to-back solid starts by Santana, with one more against Atlanta scheduled before the All Star break. He gets the break to rest (though hopefully for the Mets not bogged down in personal issues with his family), and then it's the second half - where historically Santana thrives.
Tuesday night's start against Cincinnati was an encouraging sign that there is more like that to come in the second half.
And a Johan Santana hitting on all cylinders makes the Mets a second-half team that should make the rest of the National League nervous.