Ervin Santana may have missed pitching the Braves’ home-opener by one day, but as far as introductions go, Wednesday night’s was hard to beat.

The former All-Star pitcher for the Angels who signed a one-year $14.1 million contract to rescue the Braves from a rash of elbow injuries pitched eight shutout innings to in a 4-3 win over the Mets.
How do you do?

“That’s what he was signed for, to go out there and dominate and that’s what he did tonight,” Braves closer Craig Kimbrel, who could enjoy the moment only after surviving a shaky ninth inning in which he and Jordan Walden gave up three runs.

As wild a finish as the game had – with Kimbrel stranding the tying run at third – it came in sharp contrast to the start, when Santana was in complete control.

Santana threw his first 20 pitches for strikes, something Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and some of the best command pitchers of this era ever did. According to Stats Inc., Santana is the only starter to begin a game with 20 or more strikes since 1988. Only Roy Halladay has come close in that time, opening a game against the Mets with 18 straight strikes on April 30, 2011.

Not that Santana felt such a start coming on, warming up for his first ever game at Turner Field.
“In the bullpen I was all over the place,” Santana said. “But when I stepped (inside) the lines, I focused and just threw strikes.”

Santana threw 28 of his first 29 pitches for strikes through three innings. And the one ball? It was borderline, at Travis d’Arnaud’s knees. But umpire Mark Ripperger must have needed to give his left arm something to do.

Santana didn’t go 1-0 on a batter until David Wright, 12 batters into the game. He didn’t reach double digits in balls until the fifth inning, 49 pitches into his night.

Santana threw first-pitch strikes to 20 of the 27 batters he faced through his eight innings, allowing only three hits. He coaxed 11 groundball outs and only two flyouts.

He was as in control of any game he’s ever pitched in his nine years in the American League, including the no-hitter he pitched for the Angels against the Indians on July 27, 2011.