Saturday, June 02, 2012

N.Y. Mets ~ Johan Santana Pitches Mets First Ever No-Hitter

From the desk of:   HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET



It came, finally, in the Mets' 50th Anniversary season.  It happened 8,019 games after they played their first ever game, in their first ever season at the old Polo Grounds.  It happened roughly 7,700 games after they played their first game at Shea Stadium.  For me personally, it came somewhere around my 6,200th game as an astute Mets fan.  But come it did, finally, in the Mets fourth season on the grounds of Citi Field; their newest home.

The Roosevelt Avenue Nine, and Johan Santana, together achieved what no pitcher in Met history has ever accomplished before - throwing a no hitter.  The latter portion of the game was ripping at Terry Collin's sensibilities as a responsible manager.  Johan's pitch count was creeping up on his career high levels.  He already walked five batters heading into those late innings.  The obvious problem looming like an 800 pound gorilla in the dugout was this was Johan's first season back from major shoulder surgery, and more specifically, this was only his eleventh start since the 2010 season.  Heading into the eighth inning, he was already over 100 pitches.  At one point, Coach Terry ran out to the mound to speak with his starter after Johan released a pitch high and away.  Coach then promptly ran back into the dugout, apparently reassured by his "hero", as Johan Santana later revealed was the way Coach Terry referred to him during the game.

This was Johan Santana's second consecutive complete game shut-out victory.  But obviously this win was a vastly more majestic effort authored by one of the true pitching titans of 21st Century baseball.

Johan Santana's Line ~ June 1, 2012

9 Innings - 0 Hits - 0 Runs - 5 Walks - 8 Strikeouts - 134 Pitches*
* Career High

There have been six no-hitters thrown against the Mets.  And an astonishing thirteen former Mets have pitched no-hitters elsewhere. For the Mets' part, they've thrown thirty-five one-hitters in their history.  Now, finally Flushing, we have our first.  A representative crowd of twenty-seven thousand and sixty-nine people trekked out to Citi Field this Friday night and were treated to history.  And to think, I contemplated being a walk up for the game tonight.  But you'll get no tears over spilt milk from me; only tears of joy and champagne in my eyes.  I watched on TV, and what a great night it was.

For my fellow Mets fans who date back to the pre-Tom Seaver trade, congratulations to you, and to us all.  And to the rest of my fellow Mets fans, congratulations to you, and us, just the same.  At this point, the last five years in Flushing are an era that binds no matter how old we are.

Coming off pitching a complete game shutout against the Padres in his last start, I still do not think anyone saw this coming.  If anything, any recent speculation as to who could and might pitch the first Mets' no-no leaned towards R.A. Dickey.  If you weren't aware, while pitching for Buffalo before Dickey's promotion to Queens, there was a game in which he allowed the lead-off man to get on, then proceeded to retire the next twenty-seven batters he faced; perfectly I might add.

As Johan's game gets recorded in the annals of baseball, the Mets' first no-hitter was ultimately thrown by a pitcher with stature.  It wasn't Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Doc Gooden, David Cone, et al.  But Met History wasn't created Friday night by a transient pitcher either.  Johan Santana turned in this gem.  And Johan Santana's is as formidable a name as you'd want associated with the Mets, and with regards to all-time performances.

The Mets' 3,840th win in their history came in historic fashion.  But it did not come without a price.  Mike Baxter rammed his shoulder into the left field wall retrieving a fly that threatened Johan's no hit effort.  Baxter made a fine, yet difficult play, but was forced to leave the game, just adding to the growing list of Mets' casualties.

However, unlike so many other of Johan's starting efforts, this game came with plenty of offensive support.  The Mets put Johan ahead by two in the fourth.  Then up by five runs after six.  And up by eight runs after seven.

Lucas Duda is now wielding a hot bat.  He hit his third home run in the last two games, and resumes the team lead.  He also had four RBI on the night.  Daniel Murphy was 2 for 4, with three RBI.  Kirk Nieuwenhuis was 2 for 3, with three runs scored, and has his batting average back over .300 again.  And then, get this - the unteenth sub to fill in at shortstop this season, Omar Quintanilla; was 2 for 4, and is off to batting at a .417 clip.

This Friday night affair came against Adam Wainwright; the man who threw the curve ball which ended the Mets' 2006 dream.  This game came against Carlos Beltran, who is now leading the Cardinals, and is among National League leaders in a few offensive categories, and who incidentally was the beleaguered former all-star Mets center fielder, who in 2006, was the one at bat and watched Adam Wainwright's curve ball drop in for strike three.  This game also comes after a scheduled day off on Thursday, before the team embarks on a twenty game stretch against above .500 teams.

Unlike the Mets' effort against the Phillies, Johan Santana showed his team how to seize the moment.  On a team filled with so many young players; home grown players; that can tend to dominate fan affections; Johan Santana came from places elsewhere which makes it a little harder to win those same fan affections.  Justask Carlos Beltran.  Till this day, I am still embarrassed FOR my fellow Mets fan, regarding those who booed Johan Santana during his first ever start at Shea Stadium against Ben Sheets, and the Brewers.  I said it then, and I'll say it again now - Shame on you!  Shame on all of you who booed him that day.  The simple fact that game was his first day pitching in front his new home crowd, and that we greeted him that way, astonished me!  But then again, as a New Yorker, I wasn't surprised.  Just embarrassed!

On June 1, 2012, Johan just etched his name onto the stone Doric column permanently listing the Mets of Forever.

Met fans, we have our No-Hitter!


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