The Mets' Johan Santana returns to the dugout after retiring...

The Mets' Johan Santana returns to the dugout after retiring the Chicago Cubs in the first inning. (Apr. 22, 2010) Credit: John Dunn

Johan Santana was locked in another scoreless game, but his teammates finally got him some runs - four of them, to be exact - to break open a scoreless game in the sixth inning.

Santana allowed one run and eight hits in 61/3 innings. One inning and three shaky relievers later, Jerry Manuel needed Francisco Rodriguez to get some outs - five of them, to be exact - and the Mets' closer took charge, recording his first save 16 games into the season.

It wasn't the usual way to get things done, but the Mets' 5-2 win over the Cubs was about coming through in a tough spot. The Mets won three of four from Chicago, their first series win of the season.

"Everybody knows what they have to do," said Santana (2-1), who got out of several jams and allowed his only run on a seventh-inning single by Kosuke Fukudome, his final batter.

"[Rodriguez] took the ball right there and he took care of business," said Manuel, who added that he owed Rodriguez a situation like the one he faced in the eighth. After K-Rod warmed up nine times during Saturday's 20-inning win in St. Louis, Manuel didn't want to toy with his closer by making him warm up more than once last night.

"We wanted to get one more out there," Manuel said of the eighth, in which Pedro Feliciano allowed a hit and a walk and Jennry Mejia walked Geovany Soto to load the bases. "But what I have to do is, when he gets up, I have to get him into the game. I can't mess around trying to get another out here or there."

Rodriguez agreed. "I prefer that," he said. "Up and down, up and down. It kind of gets to me a little bit."

He was up and in last night, with the bases full, one out and a 4-1 lead in the eighth. He even went to 3-and-0 on Mike Fontenot before settling down and getting a sacrifice fly to left on a full-count fastball. Rodriguez struck out pinch hitter Tyler Colvin to escape the inning with a 4-2 lead.

Rod Barajas, who had done a brilliant job of screening Fontenot in the sixth on Angel Pagan's chopper to second, forcing the second baseman to misplay the ball and allow two runs to score, singled home Ike Davis (3-for-4, two runs) to restore the three-run lead in the eighth, but that didn't really matter.

Rodriguez was locked in, striking out two and then getting Derrek Lee on a fly to right for that long-awaited first save.

"It's about time," he joked, adding that he wants to be in those tight spots. "I'm going to go out and be more aggressive there, try to get people out. That's the best situation: Do or die."

David Wright had a run-scoring double and Jeff Francoeur drove him in with a single in the sixth as they both snapped out of funks. Francoeur's single through the right side broke an 0-for-24 skid in just the way he'd imagined.

"I was working on [going the other way] in the cage all afternoon," Francoeur said. "I have a feeling I'm going to pick it back up. And for David to get that double - we both needed that real bad."

With the Braves coming in tonight, the Mets (7-9) have a chance to continue to build on their positives.

"Our whole goal was to get back to .500 or better by the end of April," Francoeur said. "We're getting close."

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