Final Game Preview: Sanchez Up, Needs To Provide Sweep

(Sports Network) - New York Mets ace Johan Santana has allowed only one run through his last three starts and hopes to continue that stingy trend today in the finale of a four-game set against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park.

Santana is 2-0 with a microscopic 0.39 earned run average in his past three starts and is coming off his second straight scoreless outing. After going the distance for a three-hitter on July 6 versus Cincinnati, the two-time AL Cy Young Award winner fired seven shutout frames in a 3-0 victory over Atlanta last Sunday. He has struck out at least five batters in his previous three starts and improved to 7-5 in 19 outings this season.

The left-hander, who is just 1-2 in nine away appearances in 2010, squared off with San Francisco in a 5-4 win back on May 8 at Citi Field. Santana did not record a decision that day and was reached for four runs and eight hits with six K's over 7 2/3 innings. In six career games (5 starts) against the Giants, Santana is 2-0 with a 3.89 ERA.

In order for New York to avoid a four-game sweep, it will need a strong performance from Santana after Hisanori Takahashi's brutal effort in Saturday's 8-4 loss. Takahashi was ripped for six runs and seven hits in only 2 2/3 innings of work and Raul Valdes allowed two runs in relief.

"He's given up a number of runs in bunches," Mets manager Jerry Manuel said of Takahashi. "Those things are sometimes difficult to defend or overcome. We have to sit down and evaluate it, look at it, and discuss it. And we'll try to make the best decision for the team."

Ike Davis had a big day in defeat, going 2-for-4 with a pair of homers and three RBI, while David Wright drove in the other run for the Mets, who have dropped six of their last seven contests and are now five games behind Atlanta for the NL East lead. Philly moved up to 4 1/2 games off the pace.

The Mets are winless (0-3) on their 11-game road trip against the Giants, Diamondbacks and Dodgers. They are not expected to have shortstop Jose Reyes back in the lineup today since he's still bothered by an oblique strain.

San Francisco has won a season high five straight games and has the brooms ready for a sweep this afternoon. Andres Torres clubbed a three-run homer during a five-run second inning and Buster Posey went deep in the win, the Giants' ninth in the past 10 games.

"He has a great swing up there," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said of Posey. "I said this earlier: his bat stays in the zone quite a while. That's what enables him to get that carry on the ball to right-center or right field like he does."

Pablo Sandoval ended 3-for-4 with three RBI for the Giants, who are 3 1/2 games behind San Diego for the NL West lead. Giants starter Matt Cain went seven innings and was charged with two runs on four hits with a walk and three strikeouts. Brian Wilson got the final out of the game for his 25th save and pushed his team a season-high nine games above .500.

The last time the Giants swept the Mets in four games was from May 1-4 of the 2000 campaign by the Bay.

Taking the mound for the 19th time this season for San Francisco will be Jonathan Sanchez, who is 7-6 with a 3.47 ERA. He has won five of his last seven decisions, but did not factor in the outcome of a 10-5 win at Washington on July 10. He allowed five runs and five hits in 3 2/3 innings that day.

Sanchez, who hasn't made it past the sixth inning in each of his last five trips to the bump, owns a decent 5-3 mark in nine home starts this season. He faced the Mets in a 6-4 road defeat on May 7 and posted a no-decision after permitting four runs in seven frames.

The lefty is 2-1 with a 4.18 ERA in seven career games (5 starts) against the Mets, who had won in nine of their last 12 stops at AT&T Park before losing the first three portions of this series.

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