From the team’s inception in 1962 until May 31, 2012, the Mets were always the team that just could not record a no-hitter. Despite a history that includes pitching greats like Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Dwight Gooden, and David Cone, the Mets had allowed at least one hit in each of its first 8,019 games.
Three years ago today, in the 8,020th game in franchise history, the Mets finally removed that stigma for good.
Johan Santana delivered the franchise’s first no-hitter on Friday, June 1, 2012 against the Cardinals at Citi Field. Santana dominated that night, striking out eight Cardinals in a 134-pitch effort as the Mets won 8-0.
This night will always stand as one of the greatest in Mets history. Part of what made it so great was that nobody saw it coming. For a team that had gone half of a century without a single no-hitter, a period of time where every single team except for the Padres recorded at least one, many Mets fans just assumed that they would never see a no-hitter.
Santana also appeared to be as unlikely a candidate as ever to deliver a no-no to the Mets. He was to be capped at 110-115 pitches that night, as he was recovering from a shoulder injury that has ended the careers of several pitchers. Most of his starts in early 2012 were on strict pitch counts in order to limit potential damage to his shoulder. So when his pitch count began to climb higher, Mets manager Terry Collins was faced with a difficult predicament.
Getting to this position in the game, a no-hit bid late with a high pitch count, was a chance effort as well. Cardinals outfielder Carlos Beltran, who was playing in his first game at Citi Field since the Mets traded him away in 2011, hit what appeared to be a fair ball down the left field line. While a replay showed that the ball probably did hit the chalk, umpire Adrian Johnson ruled the ball foul. Beltran grounded out a few pitches later. Before instant replay would have made this call reviewable, Santana was able to record an out.
During the next inning, the no-hitter appeared to be over again when Mets fan favorite Yadier Molina drove a ball deep to left field. Inexplicably, outfielder Mike Baxter was able to save the no-hitter as he made a spectacular catch crashing into the left field wall. While Baxter had to come out of the game with a shoulder injury, he left with the no-hitter intact.
As Santana’s pitch count continued to climb well over 100, many observers wondered if Collins would take Santana out of the game. After Santana walked Rafael Furcal with two outs in the eighth, Collins took a trip to the mound, and it looked like Santana's night was finished.
But Collins walked back to the dugout without making a pitching change. And the rest is history.
Santana finished the eighth inning and recorded a 1-2-3 ninth. It was over: Johan Santana had pitched the first no-hitter in Mets history.
The game made the front pages of Newsday, the New York Post, and the Daily News. Merchandise was sold commemorating the game. It even caused long-suffering Mets fan Jon Stewart to jump out of his seat. For one night in June, the Mets were essentially champions.
After this magical night, Santana did not have too many more memorable starts left in him. He struggled through the next two months before being shut down for the season in August. He had shoulder surgery again in 2013 and has not played in a MLB game since August of 2012. While it appears unlikely that Santana will ever play in the majors again, he is currently under contract with the Toronto Blue Jays, where he is working to return at some point in the future.
Letting Santana go the distance is still a decision that haunts Terry Collins to this day. While it may have had some long-term repercussions, it bought Mets fans an unforgettable night that they may not have seen coming.