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Santana takes a big first step; Pitcher is sharp In Mets' victory

NEW YORK -- A little less zip on the fastball. Still has that baffling changeup. Throw in a slider, plus all his pitching savvy, and it seems Johan Santana has more than enough to win.

Back on a major league mound for the first time in 19 months, Santana tossed five innings of two-hit ball in his long-awaited return from shoulder surgery and David Wright hit an RBI single to lead the New York Mets past the Atlanta Braves, 1-0, in their season opener Thursday.

"It's one game but it's very, very important for us," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "We pitch, we can compete."

New York's revamped bullpen picked up for Santana and shut down the Braves, while the shortened fences at reconfigured Citi Field hardly came into play. But it wasn't all good news for the Mets, who watched new center fielder Andres Torres hobble off after re-injuring his left calf.

Torres said he's headed to the disabled list and back to Florida for a rehab program.

It was the first time since 1996 that Atlanta fielded an opening-day lineup without Chipper Jones, and the Braves were punchless at the plate. Coming off a near-record collapse last September that cost the team a playoff spot, Atlanta managed only four hits against Santana and four relievers.

"Looks like the same dude to me," said Braves cleanup hitter Dan Uggla, who whiffed his first two times up. "The only difference I can see is like, he's not throwing quite as hard. But it didn't seem to matter."

On a sunny, 53-degree afternoon, the Mets honored late catcher Gary Carter in a pregame ceremony and announced a sellout crowd of 42,080 -- the largest ever at Citi Field, which opened in 2009. There did appear to be patches of empty seats, however.

Expected to finish last in a loaded-up NL East, the Mets have slashed $43.4 million off last year's opening-day payroll -- believed to be the largest one-year drop in baseball history. But with Santana finally in uniform again, it was a day filled with optimism.

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