Share & Connect
More than 50 seasons, an outrageously overdue 8,020 games, and virtually an entire lifetime later for the team’s first ever generation of young fans, Johan Santana threw the first no-hitter in the history of the New York Mets at Citi Field on Friday night.
The Mets defeated the defending World Series champions, the St. Louis Cardinals, 8-0, as Santana struck out eight and walked five in his second consecutive complete game shutout. And for the first time ever, the scoreboard read “0” under the hit column for a Mets opponent at game’s end.
If there really are baseball gods out there, they were certainly on Santana’s side during this outing. His former teammate, Carlos Beltran, hit a bullet down the third base line in the sixth inning that kicked up a significant patch of chalk, but was somehow still incorrectly ruled foul by third base umpire Adrian Johnson. Beltran would ground out to third baseman David Wright on the following pitch, keeping the no hitter intact.
Santana was the beneficiary of even more good fortune in the next inning. Mike Baxter, a 28-year-old who is ironically from Queens and grew up a Mets fan, made a miraculous catch in left field where he ran full speed and crashed into the wall, robbing Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina of what appeared off the bat to be a no-doubt double.
Baxter would then lay on the warning track in agony for several minutes. His left shoulder slammed straight into the padded wall and was badly bruised. He was immediately replaced by Andres Torres, who moved to center field after switching positions with rookie Kirk Nieuwenhuis.
“That ball that Baxter caught, he’ll go down in the annals of New York Met lore because of that,” said Mets starting pitcher R.A. Dickey.
But what made the historic performance by Santana even more captivating was that it was accomplished after a career-high 134 pitches by the same man who had missed more than an entire season following major shoulder capsule surgery.
When asked before the game, Mets manager Terry Collins said that he would limit his ace to somewhere between 110 and 115 pitches. His level of uneasiness visibly grew with each pitch after Santana finished the sixth inning with a staggering pitch count of 106. The last thing he wanted to do was jeopardize the two-time Cy Young Award winner’s health over one start.
However, Santana approached him after that very inning and told him that he was going to finish the game. After that, he felt that the decision was out of his hands, and he would go on to tell Santana that he was his “hero” during the seventh inning.
“I just couldn’t take him out,” said Collins during the post-game press conference, where the joy for his pitcher manifested itself into several emotional moments where he struggled to let out any words.
Nonetheless, his concern for the long-term effects was still present.
“I’m very excited for him, but in five days, if his arm is bothering him, I’m not going to feel very good,” Collins said.
Santana made a conscious effort to give his teammates just as much credit for achieving the feat despite the fact that he had just become the hero that completed what other great Mets pitchers such as Dwight Gooden, Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan, Jerry Koosman, and several others were unable to over the previous half century.
“We did this together,” Santana said. “It is not just about me. We had a great, great game tonight. Everyone participated. We did the little things the way we were supposed to do it. And it worked out good. I thanked them because we as a team made history tonight.”
There were more close calls in the final two innings, including a soft line drive off Beltran’s bat that nearly resulted in a collision between second baseman Daniel Murphy and shortstop Omar Quintanilla to end the eighth and a ball off the end of All Star outfielder Matt Holiday’s bat that was nearly overrun by Torres to start the ninth.
After falling behind 3-0 to the 2011 World Series MVP David Freese with one out remaining, Santana fought back into the count and struck him out on the pitch that’s made him such a dominant force for all these years – his changeup.
SNY play-by-play announcer Gary Cohen then called it the way every Mets fan had felt for all these decades. The wait was finally over, and this was no dream.
“It has happened!”