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MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Collins made right call on Johan ... twice

Justice: Collins made right call on Johan ... twice

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Collins made right call on Johan ... twice

MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

NEW YORK -- Terry Collins did what good managers are always supposed to do. He took an ugly defeat and placed it squarely on his own shoulders.

"I'm responsible," he said.

He beat himself up, but good in the wake of Mets left-hander Johan Santana getting hit early and often in a 9-1 loss to the Yankees on Friday night.

Santana's spectacular comeback season was interrupted by fastballs that drifted over the plate and changeups that ended up here and there.

"It's just one of those days," Santana said.

Indeed.

"Every mistake, they hammered," Collins said.

The Yankees hit four home runs on four different pitches. Afterward, Collins offered a tough self-assessment.

"That's my doing, not his," he said.

OK, let's take a deep breath and revisit the last eight days. Nothing that happened at Yankee Stadium on Friday should change anything.

If this deal with the devil is that the Mets swapped one bad day at the office for one of the most memorable and emotional nights in franchise history, it was a spectacularly good deal.

Collins has had two tough decisions to make in the last eight days, and he made the right call both times. He was right to leave Santana out there for 134 pitches last Friday and allow him to finish the first no-hitter in Mets history.

In the week since, he has heard from plenty of baseball people who noticed the agony etched on his face during those last outs.

Santana's surgically repaired left shoulder had been the biggest story of Spring Training for the Mets. We gathered for his long-toss sessions, for his bullpen workouts, for everything.

There was great skepticism that Santana would ever pitch another inning in the Major Leagues. If he was able to return, no one guessed he'd be more than a shadow of the dominant pitcher he'd once been.

Santana made it all the way back, and then some. He walked to the mound Friday with a 3-2 record and a 2.38 ERA. In a season when the Mets have been far better than anyone expected, he has been a huge part of the magic.

Collins nursed him along, giving him an extra day when he could, monitoring how he felt all along.

After the no-hitter, Collins decided to give Santana two extra days of rest. Actually, he was going to bring him back on Thursday, but Santana said he didn't want to push R.A. Dickey out of his routine.

So Collins decided to hold Santana back until Friday, back to the seventh day between starts. By Monday, he was confident Santana's shoulder was going to be fine, but Santana had come too far to take a silly chance.

To Collins, Santana paid the price for the extra rest by being unable to locate his pitches.

"We erred on the side of caution, and it cost us the game tonight," Collins said.

Santana opened the game by striking out Derek Jeter on a nasty changeup and sailed through the bottom of the first inning on 10 pitches.

But he walked Alex Rodriguez to open the bottom of the second, and then threw a pitch to Cano down the middle.

Whether it was the extra rest that got him, or whether he simply had a bad night is irrelevant. He came out of it with his shoulder feeling fine, and that's all that matters for the Mets.

"A couple of mistakes up in the zone," Mets catcher Josh Thole said. "There's no room for error, especially in this ballpark. It kind of snowballed on us."

Afterward, Santana stood in front of his locker and answered question after question. He went through the pitches that got him. Cano hit another one in the third, and then Nick Swisher and Andruw Jones followed with homers.

Collins left him in for five innings, and even though Santana allowed six runs, he threw 86 pitches in what became a preparation for his next start.

"You're going to go through tough outings," Santana said. "The thing is, I feel good. I know there were expectations, and a lot of people were waiting for tonight. It just happened. It's done. I have to get ready for my next one."

Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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