I don't like to use the word curse when it comes to sports, because it ascribes supernatural origins to real-world problems, and also because it involves mentioning Dan Shaughnessy. Nonetheless, Johan Santana's no hitter in 2012 removed a curse from this franchise. Before Santana accomplished his feat, whenever a Mets pitcher failed to give up a hit through five innings, fans were cursed to look at the proceedings not in awe but in dread. Fans were cursed to wonder not what celebrations might follow, but wonder which bench player just recalled from triple-A would break up the no-no with a bunt single.
Before Santana's no-hitter, a game like Wednesday's couldn't have been seen by Mets fans as what it really was: a veteran pitcher taking advantage of a sleep-deprived lineup for as long as he could. Instead, it would have stood as another grisly milestone along a rocky road lined with disappointment and shame. I prefer the former to the latter, but that's just me.
Taijuan Walker came into 2014 as one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball, but he lived up to his name by issuing six free passes in just five innings of work. He started his afternoon by walking Eric Young, which is not easy to do. On the rare occasions when EY has appeared lately, he has shown an unfortunate propensity for getting thrown out, and he was nearly picked off of first by Walker, but managed to scamper to second before he could be tagged. (The Mariners challenged the call and were rebuffed.) That allowed Young to score when Daniel Murphy doubled into the left field corner.
Walker recovered to stop the Mets there, despite another walk in the frame. He fanned Lucas Duda to end the inning, then retired the side in order in the second and third innings while striking out two more batters. Duda walked to start the fourth, but was erased when Bobby Abreu ground into a double play.
For a while, it looked like one run allowed might be one run too many for Seattle. Bartolo Colon has been a very good pitcher for a very long time, but at Safeco Field he has operated at another level, racking up a 12-1 record there and pitching to a 1.70 ERA. Most memorably, Colon took the mound at Safeco in game one of the 2001 ALDS and proceeded to pitch eight scoreless innings while striking out 10 batters against a lineup that had racked up 116 regular season wins.
Given Colon's historic dominance in the Emerald City, it was easy to see why people thought something special might be brewing from the very beginning of this game. Through the first four innings, Colon set down the Mariners in order without allowing so much as a hard hit ball. The fifth inning brought a pair of long fly outs, but fly outs nonethless, while Colon struck out Logan Morrison for his fifth K of the game. Another sweat-free frame followed in the sixth.
The broadcasters for both SNY and WOR danced around the idea of a perfect game all afternoon, saying every word but "perfect" as early as the fourth inning. Alas, this voodoo was powerless against the evil spirits of a Really Good HItter. After Colon collected the first two outs of the bottom of the seventh, he couldn't retire Robinson Cano, who went the other way and lined a single in front of Eric Young in left. A deflating outcome, but Colon shrugged it off and induced a grounder to end the inning.
As for his teammate's offense, that was far less composed. Despite grabbing a lead two batters into the game, Mets hitters were mostly silent in this one. A scary moment punctuated the doldrums with two outs in the fifth when Ruben Tejada was nailed in the helmet with a pitch. The shortstop hit the dirt and stayed there for a while, and eventually left the game, replaced by Eric Campbell. No word on his exact condition as of this writing, though concussion tests are no doubt being conducted, if they haven't already.
In the sixth, the Mets loaded the bases with no outs on a single and a pair of walks, bringing an end to Walker's outing. But after Dominic Leone took the mound and induced a fielder's choice at the plate, New York could manage no more than a run-scoring sac fly from Juan Lagares. In the seventh, Young singled and Murphy walked with one out, followed by a Wright single to drive in the third Mets' run. However. Joe Beimel entered the game to set down the last two men, in that inning, then set the Mets down in order in the eighth. Personally, I cannot think of Joe Beimel (and I think of him often) without thinking about how he cut his hand on a broken glass on the eve of the 2006 playoffs, rendering him useless for the Dodgers' sweep at the hands of the Mets.
New York's failure to score more than three runs appeared to be largely academic the way Colon was pitching. Despite the Cano single to break up the no-no, he'd cruised through seven and showed no signs of fading. He gave signs aplenty in the eighth, however, beginning with a leadoff walk of Corey Hart. One out later, Dustin Ackley singled between first and second to bring the tying run to the plate. Brad Miller then doubled off the wall in right, scoring Hart and missing a game-tying homer by a matter of inches.
It all came apart quickly for Colon, not unlike Odrisamer Despaigne's near-no-hitter on Sunday. Bartolo bid Seattle adieu and Jeurys Familia took the mound, whereupon Willie Bloomquist hit a grounder to the inexperienced Campbell at short. Campbell looked decidedly uncomfortable fielding the ball, but fired it to first in time to nail the runner. The nearest ump initially called Bloomquist safe, a call the Mets challenged and which was overturned before the umps could even put on their replay headphones. However, the grounder scored Ackley and moved Miller to third, putting the tying run a mere 90 feet away. Familia struck out old friend Endy Chavez to extinguish the threat.
After the Mets exited 1-2-3 in the top of the ninth against Danny Farquhar, Jenrry Mejia entered the game looking for the save. Cano foiled the plan by hitting a one-out chopper that Murphy couldn't field, and Hart complicated things further with a single through the 5.5 hole to put the winning run on base. Mejia wriggled out of this jam by striking out Logan Morrison to end the game.
A near-perfect game is still disappointing, to be sure. "Almost" throwing a no-hitter means very little in the record books. But then again, so does "almost" losing a game. Thanks to Santana's no-no, we can shrug of the near-miss and enjoy the win. Oh Johan, you're the gift that keeps on giving.
SB Nation GameThreads
Win Probability Added
Big winners: Jenrry Mejia, 18.7%; Jeurys Familia, 17.2%
Big losers: Chris Young, -12.2%; Anthony Recker, -6.3%
Teh aw3s0mest play: Jeurys Familia strikeout of Endy Chavez, bottom eighth, 11.0%
Teh sux0rest play: Brad Miller RBI double, bottom eighth, -19.2%
Total pitcher WPA: 52.6%
Total batter WPA: -2.6%
GWRBI!: David Wright RBI single, top seventh