Phillies 8, Mets 6

It was a night that began with great promise (mostly the promise of a long ride on the 7 train and a brutal hangover) ; two teams sharing the NL East lead, battling on a muggy July evening, a marquee mismatch of Johan Santana vs. newly acquired Joe Blanton on the cards.  The former was typically solid, mostly breezing thru 8 innings (2 runs, 8 hits, one HR allowed to Shane Victorino, 4 K’s) while the latter was taken deep by a golfing Carlos Delgado and a bleacher-denting Ramon Castro.

While it only took Santana to subdue the visitors over the course of 8 innings, it required no fewer than 4 Mets relievers to stagger their way through a disastrous 9th, with only mop-up relegated Aaron Heilman escaping unscathed.  When the dust cleared, the trio of Duaner Sanchez, Joe Smith and Pedro Feliciano had blown a 5-2 lead, allowed 6 runs on 5 hits, a couple of ’em to such Hall Of Fame worthy candidates as Carlos Ruiz (.210) and So Taguchi.

The latter was an appropriate participant given this was arguably the most disheartening Mets loss since Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS.  Certainly, it was their biggest game since Tom Glavine failed to get out of the first inning against Florida on the last day of the ’07 regular season.  And while we’ve got ten weeks of baseball remaining, ’tis tough at this hour not to consider the Phillies the more resilient of the pair.  Much will be made of the Mets’ relief corps sucking up a storm Tuesday evening in the wake of Billy Wagner’s indisposal, but we all know Country Time could have done this much damage all by his lonesome.

Prior to the Mets’ unmitigated choke job, third base coach Luis Aguayo invited Endy Chavez to be gunned down at the plate on two seperate occasions — once in the third inning after Pat Burrell quickly retrieved a David Wright liner into the left-field corner, later in the 7th when Jayson Werth made a tremendous throw after scooping up a Wright single.  In both instances there were none out, and only the second play was particularly close.

This was one of the more hostile scenes at Shea in recent memory — and that’s including the soundman turning off Chris Russo’s microphone during “Allentown” last week.  It might be an overstatement to say Jerry Manuel’s honeymoon came to a crashing halt tonight, but there’s no way to exaggerate how big a lift Santana had provided in his most important start as Met, much as there’s no point in diminishing how his efforts were wasted by the bullpen’s ineptitude.  I don’t have a huge problem with Manuel refusing to allow Santana to go beyond 105 pitches, but if ownership and Omar Minaya wish to cling to the pretense this is a championship-caliber ballclub, they’re gonna have to find some relief help by the trade deadline.  Maybe Billy Taylor can come out of retirement.