Johan Santana is amply pleased with how his season is going. So are the New York Mets, who were hoping for the best when their lefty ace returned after missing all of last year while recovering from shoulder surgery.
The two-time AL Cy Young Award winner didn't need the no-hitter he pitched against St. Louis on June 1 to demonstrate how close to his old form he is. There have been several other examples, including Saturday, when Santana scattered three hits over eight innings and sent the Los Angeles Dodgers to their seventh straight loss, 5-0.
''Coming into spring training, there were a lot of question marks. So I'm very happy to be at this point right now and very happy the way everything has gone,'' Santana said. ''There were a couple of tough games, but the good thing is that I feel good and I'm still competing. That's the key for me. I'm just hoping that I stay consistent the whole year.''
In his fifth start since pitching the first no-hitter in Mets' history, Santana (6-4) did not give up a hit between Dee Gordon's leadoff single in the first inning and Scott Van Slyke's leadoff single in the eighth. Tony Gwynn Jr. singled two batters later and both runners advanced on Adam Kennedy's groundout. But Gordon grounded out to third.
''After the second inning he got better and better and better, and he got much better command of his fastball and his changeup,'' manager Terry Collins said. ''This is his best outing since the no-hitter.''
Santana struck out three and walked two while throwing 107 pitches, the sixth time he has reached triple digits -- including the 134 he had in the no-no. The four-time All-Star finished June 4-2 with a 2.77 ERA in six starts.
''I had never seen Johan Santana throw a pitch live until this year, so I had no idea what to expect,'' said Collins, who is in his second season as Mets' manager. ''When I was sitting in the dugout watching him today, he was really starting to get his stuff working. (Pitching coach) Dan Warthen said to me: `Can you imagine him when he was 95 and 96 miles an hour?' And I couldn't. I can't even believe how good he was then -- because he's real good right now.''
Santana is 5-0 with a 0.50 ERA in five career starts against the Dodgers, who were again missing Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Mark Ellis. They haven't led at any point of a game since June 24.
Ike Davis hit a three-run homer, helping keep Los Angeles sputtering. The Dodgers are in a 1-11 freefall, going from five games ahead in the NL West to a game behind the Giants. At one point, they led by as many as 7 1/2 games on May 27.
Nathan Eovaldi (0-5) gave up five runs and seven hits in 5 1-3 innings. The 22-year-old right-hander has pitched 41 innings in his seven starts this season, and his teammates have totaled just three runs while he's been in the game - giving him the lowest run support in the majors.
The Dodgers have been on the losing end in every one of Eovaldi's outings, scoring fewer than three runs in six of them.
''I go out there not thinking about that,'' Eovaldi said. ''I just try to compete, try not to let anybody score and give my team the best chance to win. We all know that it's going to be a challenge and a battle. You just try to make the best of it.''
The Dodgers were shut out for the fifth time in six games -- including all three at San Francisco -- and have produced only two runs in their last 57 innings.
''When you're not scoring runs, it's frustrating,'' Van Slyke said. ''I mean, when you look at the Mets today, they got a double, got him over and got him in in like three pitches. So when you're scoring runs, it looks easier than it actually is. I think it's just going to take one game where everyone's swinging the bat well to just kind of relax everybody and get things going.''
David Murphy's sacrifice fly in the second inning drove in Davis with the first run after he led off with a double. The Mets used the same formula to account for their second run - a leadoff double by Murphy and a scoring flyball by Josh Thole.
Davis made it 5-0 in the sixth, chasing Eovaldi with his 11th homer, a towering drive to center field one pitch after an intentional walk to David Wright with Andres Torres at third base.
''Yesterday, Murphy and (Lucas) Duda picked me up, but today I was able to get the job done,'' Davis said. ''Just hitting a home run is a great feeling. Hopefully I can continue to do some damage in situations like that, especially is other teams are going to walk David. Maybe towards the second half of the season, they'll start having to pitch to him.''
NOTES: In each of Santana's five starts since his no-hitter, he allowed a hit before recording his fourth out of the game. He gave up a two-run homer to the Yankees' Robinson Cano in the second inning, a two-run double in the second by Tampa Bay's Matt Joyce, a second-inning double by Baltimore's Matt Wieters, and a first-inning single by the Cubs' Alfonso Soriano. ... Murphy has 10 RBI in four games, equaling the total he had in his previous 25 games and 96 at-bats. ... Saturday was the 50th anniversary of the first of Sandy Koufax's four career no-hitters, a 5-0 victory over the Mets at Dodger Stadium. ... The Dodgers signed 18-year-old SS Corey Seager, the 18th overall pick in the draft and the brother of Seattle Mariners 3B Kyle Seager.
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