Historic as it was, Johan Santana’s incredible no-hitter had so many subplots, it could have been scripted by Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld on their best day.
The Mets’ history of pitching having produced zero no-hitters until last night is indeed hugely ironic. When one considers the achievements of Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden, David Cone, etc., it definitely has been among baseball’s greatest anomalies.
And then you had the opponent: the St. Louis Cardinals. No, not quite the LaRussa-Pujols Cardinals, but maybe even worse, as they were the Beltran-Wainwright-Molina Cards last night.
The real matchup seemed to be the personification of zero Met no-hitters against the taunting ghosts of the 2006 NLCS.
And this time, the good guys won.
This writer admits that he thinks about no-hitters pretty much every game. If a pitcher gets through five, hey, maybe this is the night! Last night, those who were fortunate enough to be watching were rewarded with one of the greatest regular-season games in Met history, and one which may have been the most taut, the most intense, and the most rewarding.
Who better to break it up than Beltran? In the sixth, he smashed a drive down the left field line that replays seemed to show was a fair ball, but the ump called it foul. The Cards argued to no avail, and Wright then threw Beltran out on a hard grounder to third. At this moment, one felt that this could be the night. A blown call? Maybe. But that’s sports and that’s life. The KC Royals have one title, and it was hugely aided by a terrible call by first base umpire Don Denkinger. It is fair to suggest that for their fans, that title isn’t very tainted.
The Mets had taken the lead when Beltran could not corral Wright’s drive in the fourth, Duda hit a sacrifice fly, and Murphy tripled in another; they added to it with Duda’s 3-run blast off of Wainwright in the sixth.
So, if Beltran wasn’t going to break it up, who else was the obvious choice? Of course.
Yadier Molina. The man who probably still gives Aaron Heilman nightmares, and whose presence certainly makes many Met fans relive horrific memories. With one out in the seventh he blasted a ball to left which seemed to be the end, but Mike Baxter channeled the LF ghost of Endy Chavez, sacrificed himself, and made an incredible catch to keep the dream alive.
The Mets tacked on three more in the seventh, and once Johan easily retired the Cards in the eighth, the drama and intensity reached a level very rarely seen in a regular season game.
What would Terry Collins do? Johan had thrown a lot of pitches, had surpassed his pitch count total, it was just June 1, and he still is recovering from major arm surgery. Would Collins pull him for Parnell or Francisco, who surely would allow a line drive hit to anyone and turn the night into a nightmare? Would he allow Johan to come out for the ninth to try to make serious Met history?
The look on Collins’ face and his body language suggested that he was fighting a raging inner battle, trying to balance his 2012 season-long responsibilities with the overwhelming tide of Met history washing through the stadium.
The answer came in the bottom of the eighth, when Johan took his turn bat. He seemed very distant at the plate, quite obviously focusing on the soon-to-come ninth. And then he sat back down at the very end of the dugout bench, deserted and ignored; a scene Met fans have rarely viewed in their team’s dugout over the years.
Even watching on TV one could feel the incredible vibe in the air. The players were completely into this experience. First the tough Matt Holliday hit a fairly weak line drive to center, and Torres was so intent on catching it that he almost overran it. The look in his eyes was one of unreal focus. Allen Craig then came up and hit a similar liner to left, which Kirk caught with the same assuredness and anticipation. Then it was David Freese.
Freese worked the count full, and who was on deck? Molina! Could this really happen? Would Freese walk and give Molina a chance to hit another Met Nation-destroying 2-run homer? Or maybe a cheap bunt single to slay us all again? No. Tonight the baseball deities were on the right side. Freese struck out on a 3-2 pitch and it really was over.
Johan raised his arms in exultation, was embraced by Thole (who now owns the distinction of being the only Met catcher to be behind the plate for a no-hitter) and the whole team, received the obligatory pie-in-the-face from trickster Justin Turner, and the largest of monkeys was finally removed from the franchise’s back.
So much to take in; so much going on.
The very first return of Carlos Beltran to Queens, and as an opponent, and with Adam Wainwright starting.
Beltran almost getting the hit to break it up.
Yadier Molina hitting the shot sure to end it, and Baxter making the play in left field, with memories of Endy Chavez looming above.
And Adam Wainwright getting shelled in Queens.
Was something bigger than even the first Met no-hitter in history happening here?
Was it really that hard to imagine an ethereal community watching this game somewhere? Seaver and Ryan and Doc (drinking juice only) rooting for the long-awaited no-hitter to finally happen? Omar and Willie and Heilman and Endy watching and cheering and thinking that this occurrence might, in some small way, be a palliative for the horrors of 2006’s game 7 and that team’s ultimate failure?
Was last night the the history-making no-hitter and redemption for 2006 all in one? Is this team ready to move on from what might be termed its “Omar Syndrome?”
Last night’s game was an Oscar-winning movie; an event to be remembered and replayed again and again. The kind of night which illustrates the continuing beauty of sports. Watch and follow a team regularly, and you will on occasion experience moments truly unique in life.
As all Met fans were treated to last night.
This season has been—all things considered—fairly remarkable thus far. Two games shy of the one-third mark, and the team is a game out of first with the fourth best record in the league. Each time they seem primed for the fall to reality, they come right back to reach a new high point, as they did again last night.
After the great weekend against the Padres, they lost two of three to the Phils, and started a 22-game stretch which could be viewed as this team’s Waterloo.
And in game one against a team bringing a truckload of memories with them, they again reached a new 2012 high and achieved the team’s very first no-hitter, while in the process confronting and defeating several of the key characters of the 2006 failure.
One could be forgiven for starting to believe that something magical might indeed be brewing in Queens with this team.