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09/23/08 11:49 PM ET

Santana pulls magic bat trick

Cubs baffled by ball hitting maple multiple times during single

NEW YORK -- Explaining baseball to a layman, it would be safe to assume that a bat normally hits a ball once while in play. And, maybe, if by some strange fluke, a bat breaks and catches up to a rolling grounder, it's conceivable to say the two could connect twice in one sequence. But three times?

Depending on your account, Mets pitcher Johan Santana at least completed the first couple steps of the trifecta in the fifth inning Tuesday, breaking his bat on Cubs pitcher Sean Marshall's fastball and sending it toward second base.

Remarkably, his maple wood speared into the ball and distracted Marshall near the mound. Then, as shortstop Ronny Cedeno came over to field a grounder with Nick Evans already safe at second base, again, the ball and bat met. Santana, hustling over to first, beat out the throw, extending the inning for a Luis Castillo walk and a two-run single by David Wright to tie the score and splinter the Cubs' early hold on the game.

In chorus, the Cubs said, "I have never seen that before."

"Well, you know, Marshall did fine," Cubs manager Lou Pinella said. "The only problem is he hits the eighth hitter [Evans], and then Santana pulls a magic bat trick -- I have never seen that before -- and then he gets [Jose] Reyes, and then he walks Castillo to get to their hot hitter.

"That doesn't work, usually."

Cedeno, who played the ball with second baseman Mark DeRosa covering first, initially saw a routine grounder coming his way. Add one skip past Marshall and another diversion before he grasped the ball, and you have the magic bat trick.

"It's unbelievable. I've never seen that before," Cedeno said.

"It happened so fast," Marshall said. "I was trying to track the ball, and the bat kind of got my attention, I don't know if the ball hit the bat twice. It hit in front of me and it hit back there with Ronny. It was definitely a tough play to make for Ronny and I."

That sequence was Marshall's undoing and liberated Santana from a deficit. A four-run sixth inning broke open the game for the Mets while their ace continued to battle on the mound, lasting eight innings, allowing two runs and striking out 10.

Surely, Santana would have loved to have pitched longer. He jokingly heard from manager Jerry Manuel that he was scheduled to throw 220 pitches, so Santana decided to up the ante to 250. They met halfway, settling on 125 pitches and a career high.

And don't forget, Santana wants credit for two hits in that at-bat.

"It's just lucky, whatever, I don't even know what to call that," Santana said. "I hit the ball and then I was just running hard. I knew that if I made contact, I didn't want to hit for a double play, and then, all of a sudden, the ball hit the bat again -- which should count for two hits -- I don't know. That was just lucky. It worked out well for us."

Jon Blau is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.