|Santana Receives Help in Making History||| Print |||Send|
Written by Jim Mancari (Contact & Archive) on June 09, 2012
Last Friday started like any other day at Citi Field. The New York Mets arrived after an off day looking to avenge a tough series loss to the division rival Philadelphia Phillies earlier that week.
The Mets sent ace lefty Johan Santana to the mound to try to start a new winning streak. Santana, up to that point, had thrown the ball extremely well coming off major shoulder surgery that forced him to miss all of 2011.
In Mets history before June 1, the team had played 8,019 games. However, the Mets and San Diego Padres were the only franchises to never have thrown a no-hitter or perfect game.
There was no way that in the 8,020th Met game against an offense featuring Carlos Beltran, Matt Holliday, Yadier Molina and World Series MVP David Freese that a pitcher -- still fighting back from injury -- would toss the first Mets no-hitter, right?
Sure enough, Santana defied the odds and delivered an improbable 134-pitch no-hit performance. The Mets finally had their long-sought-after no-hitter.
The Mets have had pitchers, including Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan, Al Leiter and Dwight Gooden, who threw no-hitters in their careers. However, none of these came while with the Mets.
Santana actually didn't have great stuff early. He walked two batters in the top of the second inning, and he had 88 pitches through just five innings, a high count for Santana, who has been limited to about 100 pitches per start since returning from injury and whose manager wanted him to throw just a maximum of 115.
But even so, through five innings, Santana had not allowed a hit. The drama came in the top of the sixth inning, when Beltran, a former Met, stepped to the plate. Beltran lined a 1-0 offering over the third base bag, which third base umpire Adrian Johnson called foul.
However, on instant replay, the ball kicked up some line chalk, thus signifying that it was a fair ball and would have been a double. Cardinals third base coach Jose Oquendo argued vehemently with Johnson, but the call stood. Beltran hit the next pitch hard but right to Mets third baseman David Wright for the groundout.
Santana received a boost in the top of the seventh when his left fielder Mike Baxter made an acrobatic catch to preserve the no-hit bid. Baxter was forced to leave the game and will miss the next five weeks with a broken rib.
Santana completed the no-hit bid by striking out Freese on a 3-2 changeup in the dirt. Finally, the Mets could say that one of their own threw a no-hitter.
The missed call on the Beltran "hit" has been discussed in-depth since June 1. A call for increased instant replay to include fair or foul calls has baseball analysts and fans chirping, but the reality is that an umpire's judgment is simply part of the game.
If that "hit" happened in the first inning, it really wouldn't be an issue. But since it occurred later in the game in the sixth, it was more controversial.
Years from now, only diehard Mets fans will remember that Beltran actually got a hit that fateful night. Everyone else will remember that Santana defied all odds by throwing the first (of hopefully many) no-hitters in Mets history.
Just like years from now, no one will remember Armando Galarraga's "imperfect game," in which first base umpire Jim Joyce called a runner safe at first when he was clearly out.
While the umpiring negatively affected Galarraga, Santana will live on as a beneficiary. He should send a bottle of wine to Adrian Johnson. Maybe he already has.