It took about 51 years and 8,020 games, but the New York Mets have a no-hitter to call their own. On June 2, Johan Santana shut down the defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals on 134 pitches, five walks, and eight strikeouts. There are some people questioning its legitimacy since third base umpire Adrian Johnson called a fair ball foul in the top of the sixth inning.
But was this no-hitter just another one for the books? No, it was pure destiny.
The Mets have had their share of misery and embarrassment. Mostly playing second fiddle to the New York Yankees in the Empire State, their recent high was the 2006 NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals. That NLCS ended with Carlos Beltran striking out. The Cardinals would go on to win the World Series that year. The Mets have even traded away prospects that became stars in the league at their respective times (Miguel Cabrera, Nolan Ryan just to name a few). And let’s not forget 2007 and 2008, where they literally gave away their chances of playoff contention by ending their seasons losing to the Florida Marlins on some of the worst collapses in baseball history. Even recently, their new stadium had some criticism when first opened. Citi Field’s original walls were so far back, power numbers dropped quicker than the stock market.
Back to the no-hitter. The Cardinals starting pitcher was Adam Wainwright, while Beltran was one of the St. Louis starting outfielders. Mets third baseman David Wright, who also took part in that 2006 NLCS as well, played this special night too.
They say every no-hitter has it’s one signature catch, and this came from Whitestone native Mike Baxter. In the seventh inning, Baxter went back and caught a fly ball from Yadier Molina, only to slam his shoulder into the left field wall from the force he used to chase the ball. He left the game with a shoulder contusion.
What makes this catch so iconic is that Baxter grew up as a Mets fan. Growing up only five minutes away from the old Mets home in Shea Stadium, he always dreamed of playing for the Amazin’s. That came true for the 27-year-old, as he was acquired in 2011. He’s worked his way up and is currently batting .325 on the year.
To see a young player’s dream come true and literally catching the ball that helped continue something that’s never existed in the team’s history while getting hurt was like a movie in motion. It was like Steven Spielberg was behind home plate directing the play while it happened before our very eyes.
The pitcher Baxter helped on that play was questioned earlier this year. Johan Santana missed all of last year recovering from reconstructed left shoulder surgery. Many doctors and sports experts claimed Santana would never reach the level he once pitched at again. His fastball velocity would sink down to the high 80′s-low 90′s. This surgery was known to end pitcher’s careers. Plus, he was 33-years-old about to finish his prime.
That didn’t stop him from working hard the past year to get back to his elite level. There was a reason why I called him a fantasy baseball sleeper. Santana possess the poise and leadership of a true pitching ace. This night proves why the Mets traded for him from the Minnesota Twins. His ability to never give up and pitch with confidence has led him slowly back to the top of the pitching world. He’s 3-2 with a 2.38 ERA, 68 strikeouts, and 1.03 WHIP on the season.
But out of all Mets pitchers, Santana was the one to give the organization it’s first no-no. How is that possible? The Mets have had their good share of star pitchers, but they never delivered that special feat. From “Terrific” Tom Seaver throwing 44 shutouts as a Met, to Dwight Gooden and his infamous tenure. Even David Cone, Jerry Koosman, and Ron Darling once pitched in Queens. Seven pitchers that have once pitched for the Mets have thrown a no-hitter with different teams (Phillip Humber’s perfect game in 2012 the most recent). It’s almost asinine that it took so long for an organization to celebrate history.
One thing for sure is that Gary “the Kid” Carter was watching over Citi Field and took part in the festivities. I’m not only saying that because his number is stitched on every Mets player’s jersey, but the number eight was visible in almost every statistical category. The Mets scored eight runs in the win on eight hits. Johan Santana struck out eight batters on 134 pitchers. One plus three plus four is eight. If anyone didn’t notice, a fan ran onto the field and jumped in the huddle of players hovering Santana after the no-hitter. He was wearing a Gary Carter jersey. That could be coincidence, but me being a conspiracy nut, this took my attention.
While we give credit to Santana for pitching the no-hitter, there should be some shared with Josh Thole and manager Terry Collins. Thole caught and called the game coming off the 15-day disabled list earlier that day. What makes it even more inspiring is that he was coming off a concussion. Plus, we all know that manager Terry Collins is a man of his word. Earlier in the year, Jonathan Niese had a no-hitter into the seventh inning against the Atlanta Braves on 98 pitches. When he gave up a hit to Freddie Freeman, Collins said in a post-game interview that no matter what happened, Niese wasn’t finishing the game. With Santana, he was about to surpass his career-high for pitches in a game and left his man on the mound. He even called Santana his hero during the game. I would’ve thought that he had a shorter leash because of his recent surgery. That small act shows trust from manager to player, and by Collins going against his own words, he was a part of history.
Now with this no-hitter also came the controversy involving the Beltran foul ball. Although the ball hit the chalk and looked fair, third base umpire Adrian Johnson called it foul. This is the human element that the league is trying to eliminate slowly but surely. While people want to put an asterisk on this game, they have no right to. Human element has been part of the game for centuries and has taken part in every game. This game reminds me of Armando Galarraga’s near-perfect game with the Detroit Tigers where umpire Jim Joyce blew the call on the last out. They didn’t change the outcome of that call, so why would the league switch this one? Santana’s accomplishment was as legitimate as every other no-hitter ever thrown.
Johan Santana’s no-hitter was more than just a rare stat line baseball hardly sees, but rather a story in nine innings. We all went from watching the Mets be at the helms of irrelevancy to standing up and cheering for history. It gives Mets fans something they’ve been longing for half a century that generations of fans can relate to. Johan Santana didn’t just give the Mets their first no-no, but also a hope that one can accomplish anything if they set their mind to it.