Pitchers Duel at Shea

Johan Santana has pitched well enough in his first two starts to give the New York Mets opportunities to win, while Ben Sheets has been even better for the Milwaukee Brewers.

The two aces will start opposite each other for the first time in almost six years Saturday when Santana makes his home debut for the Mets.

Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made New York -146 money line favorites (MLB Odds) for tonight's game, the over/under has been set at 7.5 total runs (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 64% of bets for this game have been placed on New York –146 (View MLB Bet Percentages). Bet this game.

Santana (1-1, 1.93 ERA) pitched a gem in his Mets debut, allowing two runs and three hits with eight strikeouts in seven innings of a season-opening 7-2 win at Florida on March 31. The left-hander followed that up Sunday by throwing another seven innings, holding Atlanta to one run and seven hits with three strikeouts, but the Mets (5-4) failed to support him and lost 3-1. Santana also hit his second career double in the defeat.

"You hate to waste one of his games. We need to play better," Mets third baseman David Wright told the team's official Web site. "He hits, he fields, he pitches. He does it all. I'm looking forward to playing with him for a long time."

Santana, signed to a $137.5 million, six-year contract after he was acquired from Minnesota this winter, will now make his home debut for New York while making his first start against the Brewers (6-4) since losing to them on June 25, 2005. He's 3-1 with a 3.09 ERA over five starts against Milwaukee.

His first career start against them came opposite Sheets (1-0, 0.00) on June 28, 2002, and Santana got the win with a stellar eight-inning performance in the 5-1 victory for the Twins.

Sheets has been terrific in his first two starts of 2008, scattering only seven hits with 15 strikeouts in 15 1-3 scoreless innings over two starts. The right-hander got only his second career shutout Sunday, giving up five hits with eight strikeouts in a 7-0 win over San Francisco.

"He was about as dominant as he could be for me," Brewers manager Ned Yost said. "That's Ben Sheets out there at his finest. Right from the beginning, attacking - when he's got them both going he's tough to face."

Sheets, though, hasn't fared well against New York, going 3-2 with a 5.45 ERA in six starts while allowing the Mets to hit .317 off him.

He may not have to contend with Mets leadoff hitter Jose Reyes, who came out after the fifth inning of Friday's 4-2 win with tightness in his left hamstring.

"It's sore right now," Reyes said after the opener of the three-game set. "It's nothing big."

Reyes has gone 3-for-22 with an RBI and a stolen base in the last five games to drop his season batting average to .205.

If Reyes can't start Saturday, Damion Easley could replace him. Easley has started the last three games at second base for an injured Luis Castillo (right knee soreness), who might be back in the lineup Saturday.

The Brewers could use improved production from Rickie Weeks, who went 0-for-3 on Friday to extend his slump to 2-for-24 (.083) over the last six games.

The second baseman has a triple and a solo homer in two career at-bats against Santana.

by: Dave Michaels - thespread.com – Email Us

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