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Do-it-all ace ends Mets' slide

Johan, Mets shove slide to the curb

WASHINGTON -- With a chance to blow this one wide open, the Mets watched as their most productive hitter once again tried his batting helmet on for size. It fit. But with two men on base and a blowout in the balance, Mets manager Willie Randolph had other ideas than to allow his newest slugger to hit. Sorry, Johan Santana. Maybe next time.

No, Randolph didn't place too much stock in the two doubles that Santana had rapped out earlier in Wednesday's game, instead resorting to convention. So while his replacement, pinch-hitter Marlon Anderson, flew out to end the threat, Santana remained planted on the bench.

"I think he's doing better than a lot of guys on this team right now," center fielder Carlos Beltran said. "I don't know if he's going to stay like that for the rest of the season, but he did a pretty good job today. We don't expect him to hit. We expect him to go out and give us an opportunity to win ballgames. He's a great pitcher."

Oh, sure, but that much they already knew. That much was on display all evening at the new Nationals Park, where Santana led his Mets to a 7-2 win. But his two doubles -- a real hit in the Mets' clubhouse -- provided so much more entertainment.

"He should have had the cycle," Randolph cracked after the game. "He would have really earned his money then."

Instead, Santana did it on the mound, pitching seven strong innings to earn his third win of the season and end the Mets' three-game slide. He allowed seven hits, struck out four and walked one, but let's be honest, that much is unentertaining. It's somewhat mundane. It's what Santana does nearly every time he takes the mound, and it's become less remarkable each time he does it. Perhaps Mets fans assume a bit much, but then again, they've always expected Santana to spoil them.

So far, Santana has. But a pitcher who can hit? Now that's really something.

"We don't want him to hit," catcher Brian Schneider said. "But it's nice."

Especially for a team that has endured some recent offensive trouble. Carlos Delgado entered the game in such a slump that Randolph bumped him down to sixth in the lineup. Beltran wasn't faring much better, boasting only one hit in his past 20 at-bats.

Their struggles seemed to continue on Wednesday, though with better overall results. None of the Mets' most vital hits even reached the infield dirt, but their squibbers and rollers proved more damaging than Santana's booming doubles. Frankly, the Mets will take it. Runs are runs, or so the old baseball redundancy goes.

Ryan Church -- hitting fifth in place of Delgado -- sparked the key rally with a ball off the end of his bat, which hit the infield grass before spinning wildly in the opposite direction. Still aiming to make a play on it, Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman instead fired the ball well wide of the first-base bag, and Church wound up on third. Beltran, who opened the inning with a single, scored with relative ease.

"I had a little Tiger Woods spin on it," Church said with a smirk.

One more infield hit and a deflected ball helped the Mets to score two more runs, with Angel Pagan fueling the rally by stealing second and third base on consecutive pitches. So by the time Church came through with a two-run single in the ninth -- this one a bit more legitimate than the last -- the Mets already held a healthy lead. That's encouraging.

"We manufactured some things," Randolph said. "Sometimes, you've got to just force it a little bit. We're going to come at you with speed, but tonight, we just tried to push it a little bit harder. We put a little pressure on them and got them to make a few mistakes. Sometimes, you have to score runs that way just to get you going."

Santana kept it all intact, of course, his doubles representing but a sliver of his contribution. The Mets needed him, and on this night -- again -- he delivered.

But so it goes with the team's new do-everything man, who even considered stretching his first double into a triple. He thought better, of course -- "in my mind, I was like, 'No chance,'" he said -- but he still earned more than his fair share of acclaim. He snapped this losing streak on the spot, and that's just what the Mets acquired him to do.

"He's a streak killer," Church said. "He's one of those guys you know going in that you've got a good chance of ending a losing streak and starting a winning streak."

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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