NEW YORK (AP) - Johan Santana looked perfectly at home in a ballpark built with him in mind.
The two-time Cy Young Award winner breezed through seven innings in his first start at Citi Field, and the New York Mets took advantage of a key error to scratch out the only run they needed in a 1-0 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers on Saturday.
A hard-luck loser so often his first season-plus in New York, Santana (2-1) allowed five hits and struck out seven without issuing a walk. He never allowed a Brewers baserunner past first.
Yovani Gallardo was just as good for Milwaukee, cruising through six scoreless innings before giving way to reliever Carlos Villanueva (1-2).
He issued a leadoff walk to Ramon Castro, and after Omir Santos came in to run for the plodding catcher, pinch-hitter Alex Cora laid down a sacrifice bunt. Cora sprinted to first and hit the bag just as Rickie Weeks was dropping the throw, allowing Santos to head for third.
Moments later, Jose Reyes lined a pitch back at Villanueva (1-2) for an RBI fielder’s choice.
Turning it over to their suddenly stout bullpen, J.J. Putz set the Brewers down in order in the eighth, and new closer Francisco Rodriguez worked around a leadoff single to Ryan Braun for his third save of the season.
The game ended when K-Rod struck out J.J. Hardy and Santos gunned down Braun attempting to steal second, eliciting a roar from a packed stadium on a picture-perfect afternoon.
Most believe Citi Field, with its exceptionally deep gaps and tall outfield walls, will turn out to be a pitcher’s park. It plays 408 feet to center and a gargantuan 415 to right-center, with a wall that stands at 15 feet across most of left field, roughly twice the height at Shea Stadium.
It certainly played to Santana’s advantage in the fourth inning when, with a runner aboard, Hardy drove a pitch deep to left-center. Carlos Beltran wandered back and caught the 380-foot drive with his back against the wall, helping keep the game scoreless.
Santana was coming off a sharp performance against the Florida Marlins in which both runs were unearned in a 2-1 loss. He’s allowed only one earned run in his first 19 2-3 innings, and hasn’t allowed more than three earned runs in a start since last July 17.
All of those stellar outings haven’t always led to wins, though. This was the fourth straight game in which the Mets failed to score more than two runs for him.
They wasted a good scoring chance in the sixth when Beltran roped a single to right and Gary Sheffield was plunked in the back by a pitch. Both were running when Ryan Church lined out to left-fielder Braun, who wheeled around and threw to second base, beating Beltran by a step for the inning-ending double play.
Gallardo matched Santana almost batter-for-batter until leaving with his pitch count at 103.
The sometimes erratic 23-year-old right-hander, making his first start against the Mets, allowed only five hits and a pair of walks with seven strikeouts. The performance came after an atrocious start against Cincinnati, when he allowed seven runs in five innings.
Notes:@ Mets RHP Mike Pelfrey will skip his scheduled start Sunday because of forearm tendinitis, but manager Jerry Manuel said he’s not concerned. The team planned to announce who will pitch in his place later Saturday. … Manuel said Sheffield will probably start in RF on Sunday to give him consecutive days in the field. … Brewers closer Trevor Hoffman (right oblique) threw 37 pitches in a bullpen session and said he felt fine. He’s expected to pitch for Triple-A Nashville on Tuesday.