BY CLARK SPENCER
NEW YORK – Johan Santana didn’t look like a pitcher short on rest. Not to the Marlins, who came up empty against Santana in a dominating performance that may have saved the Mets’ season.
At the very least, the 2-0 victory at Shea Stadium kept their playoff hopes alive.
"Is he the Shea-viour?" Marlins catcher John Baker asked of Santana.
Santana, who was pitching on only three days’ rest, tossed a three-hit complete game as the Mets remained in playoff contention for the National League wild card and, pending the outcome of the Phillies game later on Saturday, the division title.
"It was one of those games where they needed him and he came through big-time for them," said Marlins outfielder Cody Ross. "He mowed through us. He pitched a gem. He got into a rhythm and we couldn't really break it."
Santana bested Ricky Nolasco in a pitching duel in which hits were scarce.
Nolasco, the winningest pitcher for the Marlins this season, struck out 10 and issued one intentional walk. But Nolasco also gave up the only runs in a must-win game for the Mets at Shea, which is being demolished after the season.
"When a guy throws nine zeroes at you, it's tough to win," said Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez. "Nolasco pitched good enough to win the ballgame. That's going to get lost in the box score."
The Mets struck for a run in the first on Carlos Delgado’s sacrifice fly and again in the fourth on Ramon Martinez’s double, which scored Daniel Murphy from first.
Otherwise, base runners were in short supply for both teams.
The Marlins had only two serious scoring threats the first when they loaded the bases in the fifth with two outs. But Santana got out of the jam when he retired Baker on a fly ball. In the ninth, Josh Willingham doubled with one out. But Santana whiffed Dan Uggla for his ninth strikeout and got Ross on a long fly ball to the warning track in left to end the game.
"I'm sure it looked like from the stands and the dugout it might go out," Ross said. "But I knew as soon as I hit it it wouldn't."
It was the first time in his career that Santana took the mound on short rest. But he won’t be the only starter for the Mets, who are pulling out all the stops in their frantic bid to win a playoff spot, to work on an abbreviated schedule.
Oliver Perez will start Sunday for the Mets on three days’ rest. Perez is 3-0 in his five starts this season against the Marlins.