Johan Santana, now with the Mets, returned in the same dominant fashion the Red Sox remembered him. And the ace lefty led the Mets to a 5-3 victory over the Red Sox on Friday night.
Though Santana had his share of struggles at Fenway in four appearances as a member of the Twins, he got the job done in this one. Over seven innings, Santana (6-2, 1.50 ERA) allowed six hits and three runs, two of which were earned. He walked one and struck out eight.
"He was able to do what he does," said catcher Jason Varitek. "There's a reason why he's been at the top of two leagues."
In his return from the disabled list, right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka gave up five hits and four runs over five innings. He walked two and struck out four, throwing 80 pitches.
However, a defensive miscue by shortstop Julio Lugo in the fourth made Matsuzaka's line look worse than it was.
It was in the fourth when the Mets scored three runs to snap a 1-1 tie.
If the Red Sox could have converted what looked to be a sure double play to end the inning, Matsuzaka would have walked off the mound down just 2-1.
Jeremy Reed hit a grounder to second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who flipped to Lugo for the force at second. For some reason, Lugo was off-balance, kind of leaning back as he got rid of a flat throw that wasn't in time.
"We just didn't turn it," Pedroia said. "We have to turn that double play in that situation. That's obvious. Everyone knows that. It just didn't happen."
Lugo didn't have much to say about the play.
"I was trying to stay on the bag for the sure out," Lugo said. "Get the first one first before we do anything. That's the way I should have done it. I made the throw. He just beat it. That's all I could do."
"I'd like to go look at it again," said manager Terry Francona. "It looked to me like Lugey got flat-footed and didn't get a chance to come across the bag and get some momentum on the throw. I only get a chance to see it once, but because he got flat-footed, it looked like there wasn't enough on the throw."
The Mets took advantage, as Omir Santos and Ramon Martinez followed with back-to-back RBI singles to make it 4-1.
But Francona was encouraged by Dice-K, who had been on the disabled list since April 15 with a right shoulder strain.
"I thought he was actually pretty good," said Francona. "Sixteen of 22 first-pitch strikes. I thought his ball had some life. We gave up two singles where we're trying to stop the bleeding, and they weren't hit hard."
Giving the Mets those two extra runs proved all the more agonizing in the bottom of the fourth, when the Red Sox rallied back.
After a walk to Jason Bay and a double by Mike Lowell, Varitek hit a scorcher to short. It was too hard for Martinez, as the ball deflected off his glove and all the way down the left-field line. That allowed two runs to score, and suddenly, it was a 4-3 game. The play was ruled an error. Either way, the Red Sox gladly took it.
"At that point in time, it gave us a run either way," Varitek said. "It just so happened to give us two. The important thing was that either way, we got more runs across, and it got us right back in the game."
With men on second and third and one out, Boston had a chance to either tie the score or take the lead. But again, Lugo was in the middle of something not going well, popping to third. Jacoby Ellsbury flied out to center, and the threat was over.
"We had a big chance to get that game tied or take the lead, and we couldn't do it," Francona said. "[Santana's] good. He's got a great changeup, he can locate that fastball. He competes."
In the fifth, Santana's competitive side showed in a different way.
Youkilis, after being hit in the right elbow, smiled at the pitcher and said something to the effect of, "That hurt."
Santana than angrily told Youkilis to march to first base. The players jawed for a moment, but the benches did not empty.
"He wanted me to go down to first base and not joke around I guess, but I wasn't mad," Youkilis said. "I've been hit so many times. You joke around one time, I guess, and pitchers don't like it. All I know is, when things happen, all anyone ever told me in my career is that I shouldn't get so serious. You should enjoy the game and joke around, and when I do, I guess it's the wrong thing. What are you going to do? You win some, you lose some."
Santana just seemed to be caught up in the heat of the moment.
"In that situation right there, with two outs, two strikes, there's no way I'm going to hit anybody intentionally," Santana said. "But after I hit him, he just started looking at me. And I don't appreciate that. I play the right way. I don't want to hit him. But if you're looking at me like that, you're going to get it back, because I'm a gamer, and that's what I'm going to do."
A couple of veterans traded homers in the second. Gary Sheffield belted a towering shot off a sign behind the Monster seats in the top of the inning to make it 1-0. That made him 7-for-12 with two homers lifetime against Matsuzaka. The slight lead lasted only until Varitek hit a similar rocket over the Monster off Santana to tie the game.
Matsuzaka, who took the loss, will next take the ball on Wednesday, at Minnesota.
"I think that my pitches today were the best of all my recent starts, including my rehab starts," said Matsuzaka. "Since it was my first game after coming back, I expected that I'd be done after five innings, so I wanted to get the 'W' within those limits. Sometimes good pitches alone just aren't enough to get you the win, and I think that I was a little bit short on luck out there today, but I'm ready to move on mentally and get on with my next start."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.