MILWAUKEE -- For 35 straight innings during the week, Mets opponents saw only goose eggs on the scoreboard. But Saturday's line score had all kinds of different numbers.
On the heels of a recently completed scoreless streak, Mets starter Fernando Nieve ran into some early trouble, and Brewers counterpart Manny Parra did likewise. For the first time in Mets history, both teams scored in each of the first four innings Saturday.
It was the first time the feat had been accomplished in the Major Leagues since 2006, and the Brewers took an 8-6 lead during the offensive outpouring. Nieve, essentially auditioning for a role in the starting rotation, lasted only two innings and allowed five of those runs.
Brewers outfielder Corey Hart, whose game-winning home run in the ninth Friday lifted Milwaukee to a tense 2-0 victory, continued where he left off by belting a grand slam in the first and a two-run homer off reliever Oliver Perez in the third. Nieve retired the first two men he faced before loading the bases in front of Hart.
Not to be outdone, the Mets scratched for runs in each of the first three innings, and Ike Davis delivered a three-run homer off reliever Marco Estrada in the fourth. George Kottaras also homered for Milwaukee in the second.
Manuel doesn't regret pulling Santana
MILWAUKEE -- There were precious few managerial decisions for either side Friday, but there was one maneuver on everyone's mind Saturday morning.
Mets manager Jerry Manuel admitted he probably could have used Johan Santana one more inning after eight sparkling frames against the Brewers, but the skipper re-asserted his decision to bring in relievers for the ninth inning. New York lost, 2-0, on a game-winning home run by Corey Hart.
"I don't know if he's your best [option] going through the middle [of the order] again, rather than something new," Manuel said. "You can make the argument statistically, but when you watch the game ... do you remember Prince's [Fielder] last at-bat? He just missed. I don't want to give him the opportunity to see that again with the game on the line after 107 pitches."
Santana had thrown 105 and allowed three hits through eight, but Milwaukee's vaunted middle of the order -- Fielder, Ryan Braun and Casey McGehee -- was due up in the ninth. Left-hander Pedro Feliciano was summoned and retired Fielder on one pitch, but Ryota Igarashi ultimately surrendered a single and the homer.
"Maybe he still was my best, but I didn't think it was fair to give him that," Manuel said.
The manager said he paid close attention to many details when it came to such decisions. He said a pitcher who shows emotion after a late inning-ending out could be gesturing that he has already achieved maximum results.
"I don't want him to take that emotion into the next inning and try to get it back there in the middle of the lineup that has seen him three or four times," Manuel said.
Manuel also said he didn't confer with Santana prior to the ninth, preferring to keep the left-hander from making a tough choice. He quoted former general manager John McHale, who once told Manuel, "Once a pitcher has done what he's supposed to do for you, take him out."
"Especially at this point in the season ... you want to keep him going the way he's going," Manuel said. "You want to keep a good taste in his mouth."
Santana coasts through most of May
MILWAUKEE -- If it's possible for a two-time Cy Young winner's stats to go unnoticed, Mets ace Johan Santana may fit the bill.
After a disastrous outing against Philadelphia on May 2, when the left-hander allowed 10 earned runs in 3 2/3 innings and saw his ERA balloon to 4.50, the lefty has resumed his regularly-scheduled domination of opposing hitters. He has managed to lower his season ERA by nearly a run-and-a-half in the five starts since, allowing just seven runs in that stretch.
Counting his outstanding eight innings of scoreless, three-hit baseball Friday, Santana has allowed just three earned runs in his last 22 2/3 innings (1.19 ERA). His record, however, remains at 4-2 after he finished with a no-decision.
"The changeup looks like it's back to having that little late movement at the end with great, great arm speed," said Mets manager Jerry Manuel. "He's right where he wants to be. Our starters have given us every opportunity to win games."
Santana was an ideal shepherd for the scoreless innings streak the Mets carried into the game. Before Corey Hart's ninth-inning home run against Ryota Igarashi, Santana ran the tab to 35 innings. According to the Elias Sports Bureau it was the longest scoreless streak in baseball since Baltimore rattled off 45 in a row in 1995.
"I was able to throw my changeup for the whole night and get my fastball and throw some sliders," Santana said. "I felt I had everything."
Santana was at his best when a batter found a way on base. None of the five runners advanced another bag after reaching.
The New York starting rotation has gone 6-0 with a 1.07 ERA in its last 10 games, dating back to May 17 -- by far the lowest ERA among Major League starting staffs over that span.
Niese on track for Monday rehab start
MILWAUKEE -- Mets left-hander Jon Niese threw a bullpen session Saturday with Advanced Class A Port Lucie, delivering 35 pitches in another step toward his return.
Niese was placed on the DL retroactive to May 17 with a mild strain of the right hamstring. He's on target to make a rehab appearance Monday with Triple-A Buffalo, which takes on Syracuse.
Assuming Niese returns soon, he would very likely take the rotation spot held down Saturday night by Fernando Nieve, who was making his first start of the year. Mets manager Jerry Manuel said his bullpen was prepared with at least three arms -- Oliver Perez, Elmer Dessens and Raul Valdes -- who could work multiple innings if needed in relief. Nieve was targeted for roughly 80 pitches.
"What we'd like to see is the use of several of his pitches," Manuel said of Nieve. "We haven't seen much of that lately in his relief appearances. He hasn't been able to really command those pitches like he has as a starter. That gives him an opportunity to sort of sharpen some of those things up."
Team wears Negro League unis Saturday
MILWAUKEE -- Participating in Milwaukee's annual tribute to the Negro Leagues, the Mets players wore jerseys Saturday that honored the New York Cubans, who played in the Negro Leagues from 1935-36 and 1939-50.
The Cubans won the Negro World Series championship in '47, topping the Cleveland Buckeyes. Members of the roster included Minnie Minoso and Luis Tiant, Sr. -- father of the Boston Red Sox great.
It was an unhappy birthday for Ryota Igarashi on Friday when he turned 31, but also allowed the game-winning homer. He became the 12th player in Major League history to allow a walk-off homer on his birthday and the first since Lance Painter turned 36 in July 2003. ... The 1969 Mets, who own the longest scoreless-innings streak in club history at 42, also tossed 36 innings earlier in that season for the second-longest streak. ... Infielder Josh Satin and outfielder Sean Ratliff of Advanced Class A St. Lucie were named to the Florida State League All-Star team. Pitchers Chris Schwninden and Manuel Alvarez were also named, but have been promoted to Double-A Binghamton. ... Milwaukee designated right-handed reliever Claudio Vargas for assignment preceding Saturday's game. Vargas appeared in 11 games for the Mets in 2008.
JR Radcliffe is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.