Johan Santana pitches first no-hitter in Mets' history
Kathy Kmonicek, ASSOCIATED PRESS
NEW YORK — All the eyes of the 27,069 people in the stands were riveted on Johan Santana as the game progressed Friday night. Yet the focus was a little different in the Mets’ dugout.
Players stole glances at manager Terry Collins, wondering what he would do as Johan Santana left Collins’ stated pitch count of 115 in the dust, along with batter after St. Louis batter.
“We’re all saying, ‘what’s he going to do?” pitcher R.A. Dickey said of Collins. “To a man, we all agreed, you’d have to rip the ball out of our hands.”
That also was Santana’s attitude, and so Collins let him make the call. The rest is long-awaited Mets’ history.
Santana pitched the first Mets’ no-hitter in the team’s 8,020th regular-season game and 51st season of existence, fanning David Freese on a 3-2 changeup for the final out as the Mets blanked St. Louis, 8-0. Santana finished with 134 pitches, the most of his career.
“It’s an honor,” said Santana (3-2), who has rebounded from surgery on his left (throwing) shoulder that sidelined him for all of 2011 to pitch at a high level again. “It was a crazy night. … I just stayed focused.”
Santana was masterful against the highest-scoring lineup in the National League, but credit assists to Mike Baxter and Adrian Johnson.
Baxter’s circus catch against the left-field wall in the seventh robbed Yadier Molina of an extra-base hit, and third-base umpire Johnson took extra bases away from former Met Carlos Beltran by blowing a call in the sixth inning.
In the ninth, Santana retired Matt Holliday on a fly to shallow center, got Allen Craig on a pop to shallow left and Freese swinging.
Santana walked five and struck out eight. After the final out, he pumped his left fist once, then smacked it into his glove and finally hugged catcher Josh Thole. Champagne was waiting for him in the Mets’ clubhouse.
Collins, although happy, wasn’t as jubilant as the players when the game ended. And he explained why afterward.
“It’s very, very exciting for me,” Collins said, although he wasn’t smiling. “(But) in five days if his arm is hurting, I’m not going to feel very good.”
He was pitching with five days of rest, the extra day coming thanks to the Mets’ off day Thursday. Santana threw a four-hitter in a 2-0 win over San Diego on Saturday. The Padres, born in 1969, now have the ignominy of being the lone current major-league team without a no-hitter to its credit.
Collins consulted with Santana after the seventh inning, after his pitch count had climbed to 107.
“I told him in the dugout,” Collins recalled, “you have a say in what’s going on.”
Santana didn’t hesitate.
“I told him I was not coming out of the game,” Santana said, “and he told me I was his hero.”
“I just couldn’t take him out,” Collins said. “I just couldn’t do it.”
That conversation wouldn’t have happened if not for what took place in the top of the seventh. Molina, a longtime Mets’ nemesis whose two-run homer was the decisive blow in the Cardinals’ Game 7 victory over the Mets in the 2006 NLCS, lined a 3-1 pitch deep to left field. The speedy Baxter took off after it and caught up with it on the warning track, still going at full speed.
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