PITTSBURGH– It must be something about Johan Santana starting a game for the Mets. After scoring 12 runs in the first two games of the series against the Pirates, the Mets seemingly improving offense faded away.

They got off to a decent start against Zach Duke, who has been awful this season and over the past couple of years.

Jose Reyes continued his red-hot stretch, beating out a bunt hit and wreaking havoc on the base paths to start the game. He reached second on a throwing error by catcher Ryan Doumit. He would go on to steal third base and score on a sacrifice fly by Carlos Beltran, giving the Mets a quick 1-0 lead.

That would be the only run they would score against Duke and the Pirates bullpen. Duke would retire 19 of 22 after allowing a double to David Wright in the first to finish his outing.

Johan Santana looked extremely sharp early on with a wicked changeup. He struck out the first four batters to face him and didn’t allow a hit until the fifth inning.

After allowing a leadoff single to Pedro Alvarez in the fifth, he erased him on a double play. The next batter though, former Met Lastings Milledge, hit a home run to center field to tie the game at 1-1.

In the sixth, Santana allowed a home run to Jose Tabata after two outs were made, giving the Pirates a 2-1 lead. It was his second straight start of allowing two home runs.

Zach Duke pitched seven innings, allowing one run on five hits. He walked two and struck out five.

Santana stayed in to pitch the eighth inning, finishing with a one-two-three frame. He was hoping it wouldn’t be the last Pirates inning of the game. It turned out to be just that.

The Mets got a leadoff hit from Ike Davis in the ninth, but three consecutive pinch-hitters were retired by reliever Joel Hanrahan to end the game. The Mets got six hits in the game, two each from Jose Reyes and Ike Davis.

Johan Santana has now pitched three straight complete games, with the last two being losses. He suffered his eighth loss of the season, as he’s now 10-8.

The Mets have still not swept a series of three or more games against an NL team on the road since Sept. 2008.

They will have an off day in New York tomorrow before starting a three-game series against the Marlins at Citi Field on Tuesday night. R.A. Dickey will oppose Josh Johnson.

NL East standings:

Atlanta 73-51
*Philadelphia 70-53 (2 1/2)
Florida 62-61 (10 1/2)
NY Mets 62-62 (11)

*Lead NL Wild Card; Mets 8 1/2 behind

Next Series Probable Pitchers:

August 24
New York: R.A. Dickey (2010: 8-5, 2.41 ERA) vs. Florida: Josh Johnson (2010: 11-5, 2.27 ERA)
August 25
New York: Mike Pelfrey (2010: 12-7, 3.80 ERA) vs. Florida: Alex Sanabia (2010: 2-1, 3.77 ERA)
August 26
New York: Jon Niese (2010: 8-5, 3.33 ERA) vs. Florida: Anibal Sanchez (2010: 10-8, 3.16 ERA)

Upcoming schedule:

New York Mets:
August 24-26 vs. Florida Marlins
August 27-29 vs. Houston Astros

Florida Marlins:
August 24-26 @ New York Mets
August 27-29 @ Atlanta Braves

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