It’s been a point of endless tongue-in-cheek prodding from fans who love to rag on the team. The New York Mets, one of baseball’s most iconic franchises, had never celebrated a no-hitter by one of their pitchers.
Until last night.
Johan Santana, the multi-million dollar man that has been Mets fans’ favorite target for groaning and eye-rolling ever since their team traded for him, has delivered a joy countless others have failed to. For nine consecutive innings, through 27 outs, Johan Santana did not allow one hit from the visiting St. Louis Cardinals.
And Santana didn’t do it the easy way, either. Those who loved to prod the Mets about their no no-no’s will probably bring up the controversial Carlos Beltran foul ball ad nauseam. In the sixth inning, the former Met took one of Santana’s fastballs and smashed it down the third-base line but the umpire out there, Adrian Johnson, called the shot foul. On replay, however, the ball clearly hits the chalk line PAST the bag.
Beltran was retired on the next pitch.
Johan actually struggled with his fastball, specifically his command of it, all game. His five walks on the evening of course disqualified his bid from being a perfect game, but it also drove up his pitch count which ended the night at 134.
Before the game, skipper Terry Collins said he wanted to hold Santana to about 110 pitches. But with a cushy lead to work with and history on the verge, Collins allowed Johan to go over.
But Santana didn’t just have help from the refs, the eight fielders behind him also came up with some brilliant plays. In the seventh inning, one inning after the blown call on the Beltran foul ball, outfielder Mike Baxter risked life and limb to keep the no-hit bid intact. Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina struck a fly ball headed for the same left field corner. Baxter flagged it down a split second before he crashed into the outfield wall. Baxter didn’t get up after the play and was taken out of the game.
So, no, the no-hit bid wasn’t pretty. But when a ballclub has been chasing such a feat for five decades, it’s unreasonable to expect that it would be.
For the first 8,019 games in the franchise’s history, someone, SOMEONE got a hit. Someone made it to first after putting the ball in play. Someone kept a donut out of the ‘H’ column on the box score. But on the first night of June 2012, Johan Santana ended all of that. Some will call it luck. Others will call it illegitimate. But everyone will have to call it history.
A History of Hits: Mets Greats Who Never Quite Got There
Considered by many as the greatest Met pitcher of all time, Tom “Terrific” took the Mets to the 1969 World Series in a Cy Young-winning season. He won the award two more times in ’73 and ’75 and was a Rookie of the Year in ’67. During his tenure with the Mets, Seaver threw five one-hitters but never clinched the no-no until after he had already been traded to the Cincinnati Reds.
The young ‘Doc’ that was unfortunately almost as well known for his off-the-field affairs as he was for his on-the-field ones, Gooden exploded into the scene for the Mets in 1984 as a young, bat-missing 19 year-old. His extracurricular activities precipitated a slow decline in his career in 1986 and might’ve played a role in why he never threw a no-hitter for the Mets. However, later in his career, he did pitch a no-hitter for the cross-town Yankees.
If there was ever a Mets pitcher with stuff nasty enough to miss bats through 27 outs, it definitely belonged to Cone. Though his tenure with the Mets was noticeably shorter than other greats to don the uniform, he left an indelible mark on the franchise while he was there. In 1992, his last season with the team, he pitched five complete games of shutout ball. Seven years later, he pitched a perfect game for the Yankees (and thus, also a no-hitter).
Darling was the other heavy hand in the one-two punch between he and Gooden in the mid-1980′s. His career numbers aren’t as spectacular as other pitching greats which reflects some of the suspect ball clubs he pitched for. On June 28, 1987, Darling had a no-hit big going for the Mets through seven innings before it was broken up. What’s more is that New York ended up losing the ball game.
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