This is the Santana that Mets paid for
Santana threw the Mets’ first no-hitter last night, a 134-pitch gem in an 8-0 victory over the Cardinals. It came in the 8,020th game in franchise history.
A milestone for the Mets, but arguably just as important a night for Santana and his career.
The 33-year-old missed all of last season recovering from shoulder surgery, forcing diehards to question if he was worth the hefty contract.
“Coming into this season, I was just hoping to come back, stay healthy and help this team,” he said. “Now, I’m in this situation in the greatest city for baseball.”
The no-no was almost no more with a controversial call in the sixth inning.
Former Mets star Carlos Beltran hit a shot down the third-base line that skipped just foul — or so third-base umpire Adrian Johnson thought.
Replays showed the ball hit the chalk, which would have made it a fair ball, ending Santana’s bid and keeping the Mets in the record books along with the San Diego Padres as the only teams never to hold opponents to a zero in the hits column.
The hurler also owes Mike Baxter a debt of gratitude. In the seventh frame, Yadier Molina — best known in New York as the catcher who hit the game-winning home run in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS — nailed a long fly ball to left field.
Baxter snared it on the warning track and rammed into the wall. He had to leave the game with an apparent shoulder injury.
“You’re getting close to the wall, but your priority is to catch the ball,” Baxter said later.
Before yesterday’s game, manager Terry Collins told reporters he would limit Santana to around 110 pitches. The 12-year vet had 107 through seven innings, which prompted Collins to visit in the dugout, where Santana informed him he was fine.
“It’s very, very exciting for him, but in five days, if his arm is bothering him, I’m not going to feel very good,” Collins said. “I just couldn’t take him out.”
Especially with history being made by the Venezuela native. Since the Mets began play in 1962, they have been dogged by near-misses and tortured by watching former Mets make history.
Tom Seaver pitched into the ninth inning three times with a no-no intact as a Met. He eventually threw one — as a member of the Reds.
Most infamously and most frustrating for fans, Nolan Ryan prevented opponents from getting a base-knock seven times. All of them came after the Mets traded him in 1971.
Both David Cone (with a perfect game) and Dwight Gooden did it. But they were across town, pitching for the Yankees at the time.
“I knew that the Mets had never had a no-hitter,” Santana said. “We worked very hard, all the things we had gone through. … This is very, very special, and I knew this means a lot.”
It meant so much that a fan wearing Gary Carter’s No. 8 jersey jumped out of the stands and tried to join the team in celebration near the mound at Citi Field before being tackled by security.
More important for the Mets this season, the performance could signify that Santana is back to the form that won him two Cy Young Awards as a member of the Twins. Santana said he’s never done it at any level of his career.
“I don’t think I threw a no-hitter in video games,” he said.