Mets stay hot, help Santana to 12th victory

NEW YORK -- Johan Santana was escorted to his locker Thursday by teammate Livan Hernandez, who playfully peered inside from the double doors at the back of the New York Mets' clubhouse before clearing the way for the ace left-hander.

It was some well-deserved protection for one valuable pitcher.

Santana threw seven sharp innings and streaking New York won its fifth straight game, beating the Colorado Rockies 7-0 in the opener of a day-night doubleheader.

"Every time you win a game it's good. But it's even better when you have a chance to just keep adding to it," Santana said. "That's what I was trying to do today and at the same time I was having fun. It's good to see that. It's good to see that everybody feels comfortable."

Santana (12-8) struck out eight and walked one in his first career outing against Colorado, allowing just four hits. The two-time Cy Young Award winner closed out July with a 3-2 record and a sparkling 1.82 ERA in five starts.

Bobby Parnell and Tim Redding each pitched an inning to finish the four-hitter.

Angel Berroa had a two-run double in New York's five-run second -- its biggest inning since it scored five in the first at Washington on June 7. The Mets have scored five or more runs in just six of Santana's 21 starts this season.

"When you're dealing with a starter of Johan Santana's stature you can't afford to have an inning like we had in the second inning," Colorado manager Jim Tracy said. "You spot him a five-run lead and the hole is close to being impossible to climb out of."

The Rockies have lost three straight for the first time since they dropped four in a row from May 31-June 3. They haven't scored since Clint Barmes' solo homer in the fifth inning of Monday night's 7-3 loss in the series opener.

Ian Stewart narrowly missed a grand slam with a long foul ball off Santana in the fourth, then struck out to end the inning.

Jason Hammel (5-6) lasted just 1 1/3 innings, putting a strain on Colorado's bullpen heading into the makeup of Wednesday night's rainout. The right-hander gave up five runs and seven hits in his shortest outing of the season.

Hammel allowed the first five batters to reach in the second. Former Rockies outfielder Cory Sullivan and Omir Santos both singled in a run and scored on Berroa's drive. Berroa moved to third when center fielder Dexter Fowler mishandled the ball and scored on Angel Pagan's single.

"I was throwing strikes, pounding the zone, but they were putting the bat on it and my putaway pitches weren't putaway pitches," Hammel said.

Hammel was 4-2 with a 2.08 ERA in eight road starts before the loss. Josh Fogg replaced him after Pagan's hit and pitched 3 2/3 solid innings.

David Wright added a sacrifice fly in the fifth and an RBI double in the seventh for New York, which posted its highest run total in a Santana start since they beat the Nationals 7-4 on June 27.

"Obviously, our ace did his job today," said Alex Cora, who had two of the Mets' 11 hits. "It's just about getting ahead and we're pretty confident right now offensively."

Game notes
Mets general manager Omar Minaya has apologized to a beat reporter for questioning his motives and credibility during a bizarre news conference Monday. The writer accepted the apology, saying the GM's "remorse was sincere" when they met Wednesday. ... The Mets recalled C Robinson Cancel from Triple-A Buffalo and designated RHP Elmer Dessens for assignment. Manager Jerry Manuel said C Brian Schneider is banged up and Santos would be behind the plate for both doubleheader games. ... Mets 2B Luis Castillo's wife gave birth to a baby girl, and Manuel said he expected him to play in the second game. ... Rockies SS Troy Tulowitzki went 1 for 3 and is 9 for 14 (.643) in his last five games.