Manuel, who hadn't managed since 2003 with the White Sox, said "it felt pretty good" to be back on the bench as the Mets' interim skipper, but he wasn't happy with the way the game played out.
"I didn't like the way we played," Manuel said. "We played poor baseball defensively and we didn't hit. We looked very tired. I know I was tired, but they looked tired. Maybe they were going through what I was going through. I don't know."
Manuel addressed the players before the game about his style of coaching and what he expects from the team. The players said that although it felt a little bit different on Tuesday, it's time to get over the changes.
"Obviously, it's a big change, but we want to move on like everyone else," Mets catcher Brian Schneider said. "We wish Willie [Randolph] the best. It didn't matter who was coaching tonight. We just still have to go out and win ballgames."
Said Santana: "Whatever it was, it's over with. We just have to start all over again and start playing better baseball. He was a great guy, but things just didn't work out."
Santana didn't have his best stuff against the Angels as he lasted six innings, allowing five runs (four earned) on eight hits and two walks while striking five. He was hit hard by Angels center fielder Torii Hunter, who had two doubles and a walk against his teammate of eight years with the Twins.
"We played together for eight years, so it was nice to see him, but at the same time, we're on different sides and I wanted to get him out," Santana said.
Santana got into trouble early as he allowed three runs in the first inning that was keyed by back-to-back doubles by Vladimir Guerrero and Hunter.
Hunter drove in two runs with his double down the left-field line on the first pitch he saw from Santana -- an 80-mph changeup.
"He left a changeup up, and I said, 'Thank you,'" said Hunter, who later scored on a fielding error by first baseman Carlos Delgado. "When I hit the double and was at second, I think he said, 'I hate you.' It was all in fun. I miss him. I love him."
Santana ran into trouble again in the third inning, when he allowed a single to Guerrero and a walk to Hunter before surrendering an RBI single to Casey Kotchman.
Santana settled down after the third before he allowed a solo home run to Jeff Mathis in the sixth inning.
Meanwhile, the Mets' offense never got anything going against Lackey. They scored their only run in the first inning on a double-play ground ball hit by David Wright with Damion Easley on third. Easley replaced Jose Reyes, who left the game with stiffness in his left hamstring after opening the game with a single up the middle.
After the first inning, the Mets only had three runners advance to second base against Lackey, but they had nothing to show for it. The Mets went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position.
Lackey (4-1) tossed 7 2/3 innings, allowing one earned run on six hits while striking seven and walking one. He picked up his fourth win of the season and lowered his ERA to 1.73.
"He's obviously a good pitcher," Schneider said. "His ERA is down around 1.70."
Even with the loss, Manuel said he's just looking forward to the Mets putting the craziness of the past 24 hours behind them.
"Hopefully, now that the cloud is lifted, we can get back to playing baseball," Manuel said. "We've got a good team. We've got some good players, and it's just a matter of us all getting on the same page."