Since Johan Santana had Tommy John surgery, the Mets have strictly limited his pitch count to 107 per game, but 8,019 was the magical number on everyone's minds as the lefty hurler took a no-hitter into the ninth inning against the Cardinals.
That is the number of games the Mets have played without one of their pitchers throwing a no-hitter. Make that "was" and "had"!
This game had all the careful superstition, magical luck, and glorious hustle of that rare baseball gem known affectionately in baseball parlance as a "no-no."
Every Met player embodied resilience to deny Cardinal hitters of a hit, but none more than a kid from Queens.
In the seventh inning, Yadier Molina hit a line shot to left and every Met fan gasped. Left fielder and New York native Mike Baxter took off for the streaming ball with a head of steam that he drove directly into the wall. He recoiled like a rag doll with ball miraculously locked in glove.
Face-first on the ground and nearly motionless, Baxter was soon slowly walked off the field by a trainer. Baxter held his wrist with a painful grimace. The crowd stood and applauded.
With joyous expectation for pitching glory momentarily broken up by palpable concern for an injured player, Santana regrouped and went back to work.
He might have sensed the magic in the air because by that point he already seemed to have the baseball gods pushing him forward. In the sixth inning, Carlos Beltran had hit a line-shot over third base, which drew chalk, but a foul signal from the third base umpire.
That didn't seem like a mistake, though. It felt more like encroaching destiny.
In the dugout, everyone was doing all they could to cultivate the magic. In time-honored fashion, players kept a wide berth from Santana, leaving him alone with his anxious thoughts as he stared down meditatively at a bulky towel preserving his arm.
Announcers likewise toed the line of baseball superstition.
Former Met first basemen Keith Hernandez refused to utter the words "no-hitter," substituting that hallowed term with a series of circumlocutions. For example, instead of saying, "If the Cardinals get a hit," Hernandez said, "If the decision is made for him [to come out of the game]," laughing nervously with the ever-evasive phrase.
From the eighth inning on, every out drew a louder chorus of cheers from the New York faithful. A swinging bat on third strike and third out unleashed a sacred crescendo over 50 years in the making.
In an on-field, post-game interview, Santana summed it up for all those die-hard Met fans who had waited for this auspicious day.
"It is the greatest feeling ever!"