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second place

Johan Santana Goes Boom

Heading into last night's game at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Johan Santana was 3–1 with a 2.08 ERA, with 28 strikeouts in 30 and a third innings, which, projected out to a full season, will win you a Cy Young. In the fourth inning last night, Santana gave up eight runs in the fourth inning, which, projected out to a full season, will get you shot.

Santana's fourth-inning implosion — Shane Victorino's grand slam after a walk to Jamie Moyer almost seemed like deserved punishment — was unusually frightening, in that Santana looked to be throwing batting-practice fastballs to the best lineup in the National League. Home runs always look particularly painful flying through the Philadelphia night these days; that fan base has turned into a Boston-esque one rather rapidly, has it not?

As one would expect, there's much Sturm und Drang about Santana this morning, as if the one inning completely eradicated the first 33. The implosion last night was scary, sure, and certainly high profile, on (hopefully, for you, muted) national television with first place on the line. But one awful Santana inning does not mean this is over, or that he has lost the inability to be Johan Santana. It just meant matters went briefly off the rails. The Johan Santana of today is not the Johan Santana of the mid-aughts ... but he's much closer to that person than the guy of last night. The scary part of last night, really, is not that Johan Santana was so bad. It's that Oliver Perez is the option for tonight. Johan Santana isn't one pitcher; for the Mets, he's the emotional equivalent of three. His off nights scare more than they should. Oliver Perez is a chaser that's not much comfort. Santana's next outing is at home against the largely punchless Giants. If he struggles then, panic. For now, just panic when Ollie's on the mound.

Photo: Hunter Martin/Getty Images