For the second straight Sunday and start, ace Johan Santana gave the Mets what they needed—a huge lift in a must-win situation, as the Mets wanted to avoid getting swept four games to the Giants.

Although the result showed that Santana was tremendous, he did have to fight trouble all game. From every inning from the first through the sixth, the Giants either had the leadoff man on or a runner in scoring position against Santana.

The Giants got their only run off Santana in the first, on a sacrifice fly by rookie sensation Buster Posey. In the second, after Santana gave up a leadoff double to Pablo Sandoval, he struck out the next three hitters to strand the runner.

The Mets tied the game in their half of the second. Shortstop Ruben Tejada walked and scored on a ground-rule double by Angel Pagan, tying the game at 1-1. They took the lead in the fourth on a leadoff home run by David Wright, his 15th of the season.

Santana would get in and out of trouble for the rest of his outing, although he retired the last nine batters he faced. He went eight innings, allowing one run on eight hits, and he walked one and struck out five.

The Mets added an insurance run in the eighth. Second baseman Justin Turner doubled for his first career extra-base hit. Three batters later, Ike Davis doubled him in, extending the Mets lead to 3-1.

Santana was lifted after eight innings and 115 pitches and was replaced by closer Francisco Rodriguez.

In the ninth, as always, Rodriguez made it interesting. In fact this time, he made it too interesting.

He led off the ninth with a walk to Pablo Sandoval. The next batter, Juan Uribe, singled. After a sacrifice bunt by Eli Whiteside, moving the runners into scoring position, pinch-hitter Travis Ishikawa tied the game with a two-run single.

The game was tied, 3-3, as Rodriguez was on the verge of losing what would have been a devastating game for the Mets.

In the inning, there were some questionable calls by home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi, causing some barking from the Mets and their dugout.

With Ishikawa at first and one out, Andres Torres lined a double to right field, moving the runner to third. The Mets decided to pitch to Freddy Sanchez, with the presence of the red-hot Aubrey Huff on deck. Sanchez hit the ball to third, and David Wright’s throw home appeared to be high, but Ishikawa was called out at the plate.

He was clearly safe, and the call stood to be maybe the biggest of the Mets season. Aubrey Huff grounded out to first to end the ninth.

In the 10th, the Mets put together a two-out rally. Jason Bay singled for his third hit of the game, and scored ahead of Ike Davis’ long double off the high right-field fence, giving the Mets a 4-3 lead.

Shockingly, Francisco Rodriguez came on for the 10th after blowing the save and nearly the game in the ninth.

After he got the first two outs, Edgar Renteria doubled to left, as the potential tying run. Juan Uribe was walked intentionally and Rodriguez struck out Eli Whiteside to end the game.

It was a game that could’ve been the Mets’ worst loss of the season, considering the circumstances, and the way Johan Santana stepped up.

At the end, the Mets won a game that they should’ve lost, had it not been for Phil Cuzzi’s gift call in the ninth.

They settle for one win out of four, and will now head to the Arizona desert, beginning a three-game series against the Diamondbacks tomorrow night.

They will get Mike Pelfrey back from his stiff neck, as they trail the first-place Braves by five games in the NL East.

NL East standings (top three teams)

Atlanta 54-38
NY Mets 49-43 (5)
Philadelphia 48-42 (5)

Next series’ probable pitchers:

July 19

New York: Mike Pelfrey (2010: 10-4, 3.58 ERA) vs. Arizona: Ian Kennedy (2010: 4-7, 4.12 ERA)

July 20

New York: R.A. Dickey (2010: 6-3, 2.63 ERA) vs. Arizona: Barry Enright (2010: 1-2, 3.45 ERA)

July 21

New York: Jon Niese (2010: 6-4, 3.44 ERA) vs. Arizona: Dan Haren (2010: 7-8, 4.60 ERA)

Upcoming schedule:

New York Mets:
July 19-21 @ Arizona Diamondbacks
July 22-25 @ Los Angeles Dodgers

Arizona Diamondbacks:
July 19-21 vs. New York Mets
July 22-25 vs. San Francisco Giants

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