Johan Santana Throws the First No-Hitter in Mets History

by delarue

This isn’t a baseball blog, but it wouldn’t be right to let the night go by without saluting Johan Santana, who a few minutes ago pitched the first no-hitter in the history of the New York Mets, beating the St. Louis Cardinals 8-0. It was the franchise’s 8,020th game. The San Diego Padres now stand alone as the only team to have never thrown a no-hitter.

Utilizing his signature changeup to offset a fastball that clocked no higher than around 88 MPH, the former flamethrower was a little wild, walking five while striking out eight. But for the veteran lefthander to finish the game throwing a career-high 134 pitches, in his second consecutive complete-game shutout – a feat no Mets pitcher had accomplished in twenty years, since David Cone last did it in 1992 – it was the crowning achievement in a remarkable comeback from the major shoulder surgery that had sidelined Santana since September of 2010.  The Cardinals failed to get many good swings against him. The hardest-hit ball off  Santana – who raised his record to 3-2 – was a vicious liner to deep left in the seventh inning by Cards catcher and longtime Mets nemesis Yadier Molina that Mike Baxter sacrificed his body to catch, hitting the leftfield wall at full speed and leaving the game moments later, slowly escorted off the field by trainer Ray Ramirez. The initial diagnosis was a contusion of the left shoulder, pending further examination. Kirk Nieuwenhuis – who shifted from center to left after Baxter’s injury – and replacement centerfielder Andres Torres also made good running catches of shallow flyballs.

The game began as a pitchers’ duel between Santana and the Cards’ Adam Wainwright. Neither team had a hit until Nieuwenhuis reached on an infield single in the fourth inning. After a double by David Wright, Nieuwenhuis scored on a sacrifice fly by Lucas Duda, Wright moving to third and then scoring on David Murphy’s triple. The Mets padded their lead on Duda’s three-run homer in the sixth, then put the game out of reach an inning later with three more runs off Wainwright and rookie reliever Sam Freeman, who in his major league debut walked Nieuwenhuis and then Wright, the latter with the bases loaded.

Neither of the Mets radio broadcasters, Howie Rose or Jim Duquette, allowed the words “no-hitter” to escape their lips until after Santana had come back from a 3-0 count with two outs in the ninth to fire a third strike past Cards third baseman David Freese. Josh Thole caught all nine innings in his first game back from the disabled list. In the eighth inning, with two out and Santana having control problems with his changeup, Mets manager Terry Collins made a quick visit to the mound to tell Santana what his pitch count was; Santana assured Collins that he felt fine, and the rest is history.

Some will argue that the game was tainted when ex-Met Carlos Beltran opened the sixth inning with a liner over third base that just brushed the chalk on the foul line but was ruled foul by umpire Adrian Johnson. Despite vociferous complaints from another ex-Met, Cards third base coach Jose Oquendo and then manager Mike Matheny, the ruling was allowed to stand and Beltran eventually grounded out to third. The victory keeps the surprising Mets in second place in the National League East, a game behind first-place Washington and a game ahead of the Atlanta Braves.

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