Johan Goes For Mets

When the New York Mets traded for Johan Santana and signed one of the league's elite pitchers to a rich contract extension, they were hoping they acquired a stopper who would put an end to any sort of losing streak.

He'll get his first chance to do so on Wednesday.

New York's left-handed ace will look to stop his team's three-game skid when the slumping Mets visit the Washington Nationals' new ballpark for the first time, starting a brief two-game series.

Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made New York -200 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 94% of bets for this game have been placed on New York -200 (View MLB Bet Percentages). Bet this game.

Santana (2-2, 3.25 ERA) has pitched well, but perhaps hasn't yet been all the Mets hoped for when they sent four players to the Minnesota Twins for him, then signed him to a six-year, $137.5 million contract in the offseason.

He lost consecutive starts before allowing three runs on four hits and striking out 10 in seven strong innings last Friday, pitching New York to a 6-4 win at Philadelphia. Santana has been at his best on the road this year, with a 2.57 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 21 innings.

"Johan, in a difficult park to pitch in, did what he had to do," Mets manager Willie Randolph said Friday. "He was outstanding. It's what we're looking for. We expect him to do that. That's the kind of pitcher he is."

The Mets (10-9) only gave him two total runs of support in his two losses, a problem they've also had during their current slide. They scored just one run on five hits in each loss of a two-game sweep against the Chicago Cubs, losing 8-1 Tuesday afternoon.

A fourth straight loss would mark their longest losing streak since they dropped five in a row the final week of last season.

"Offensively now we're just not clicking," third baseman David Wright said. "... We need the guys at the top of the order to get on base and we need the guys in the middle of the order to drive them in. It's not one guy or another."

Wright was hitless in both games in Chicago after coming in with three consecutive multi-hit games, while Jose Reyes is also hitless in his last seven at-bats. Carlos Delgado has only three hits in 35 at-bats, and Carlos Beltran has just one hit in 21 at-bats.

The last-place Nationals (6-15) would seem a good candidate to break out against, but the Mets will have to face the pitcher who has half of Washington's wins.

Right-hander Tim Redding has already equaled his win total from last season. Redding (3-1, 3.27) was 3-6 in 15 starts in 2007, but he allowed four runs on just three hits in six innings Friday, striking out a career-high 10 and getting his second straight win as the Nationals beat Florida 6-4.

Washington ended its own three-game slide on Tuesday, as left-hander John Lannan pitched seven shutout innings, beating Atlanta's John Smoltz on the night Smoltz notched his 3,000th career strikeout. Washington has still dropped 15 of 18.

"A win like that ... is worth two or three losses," Nationals manager Manny Acta said. "It was nice regardless of the score."

Three of the Nationals' losses came at Shea Stadium last week, with the Mets outscoring Washington by a combined 14-4 in the sweep.

While Santana didn't pitch in that series, he has faced the Nationals franchise twice before in interleague play as a member of the Twins. He allowed three runs - two earned - in seven innings against them last June, but took the loss as Washington won 3-1.

The Nationals are opening an 11-game homestand after playing their last eight on the road. They are 2-5 at Nationals Park.

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