St. Louis Cardinals’ third baseman David Freese stepped into the batter’s box against the New York Mets at Citi Field tonight, down to his last strike in the last inning—again. Last October, Freese kept the Cardinals alive in Game 6 of the World Series when he tripled off of the right field wall and driving in the game-tying runs against the Texas Rangers in the bottom of the ninth inning. In the eleventh inning of that same game, Freese hit a walk-off home run to force a Game 7, marking one of the most heroic performances in the history of the Fall Classic. One night later, Freese was crowned a World Champion and the World Series MVP.
On Friday night, facing a 3-2 count with two outs in the top of the ninth, Freese was the last batter standing between Mets pitcher Johan Santana and the pen that would ink him into baseball’s record books forever.
Santana had retired 26 batters without allowing a single hit when he wound up for his final pitch of the night. It was a changeup, Johan’s signature pitch, that struck Freese out and gave Santana his first career no-hit ball game.
The no-hitter was the first in New York Mets history. In their 51 seasons of existence, Hall of Famer Tom Seaver was the closest to ever throw a complete game without a hit—having his no-hit bid come to an end with one out to go in the ninth inning against the Chicago Cubs in 1975.
Johan, who struck out eight batters and walked five, had just enough gas left in the tank to retire Freese in the ninth after throwing a career high 134 pitches. But Santana wasn’t the only one to go the extra mile for the Mets.
In the seventh inning, St. Louis’ catcher Yadier Molina hit a shot out to the left field fence. Molina was looking to spoil another night for Mets’ fans—he homered in the bottom of the ninth of Game 7 in the 2006 NLCS, squashing New York’s Championship dreams. But left fielder Mike Baxter extended his glove to keep the no-hitter intact, snagging the ball while crashing into the bright yellow W.B Mason wall.
Baxter immediately left the game with a left shoulder contusion.
The umpires also played a role in sealing Santana’s historic night. In the sixth inning, former Met Carlos Beltran ripped a liner down the third baseline that was called foul. Replays, however, showed that the ball was actually fair. Even in the eighth inning, a semi-circle of missing chalk could be seen where Beltran’s shot had touched fair territory.
But hey, that’s baseball. The box score will still read zero hits.
A tip of the cap goes to Johan Santana, not just for his outstanding outing, but also for the year-and-a-half of adversity he has fought through to celebrate this day in his career.
On September 2, 2010, Santana tore the anterior capsule in his left shoulder, forcing the southpaw pitcher to miss the entire 2011 season. He attempted to come back last year, pitching in a few minor league games, but his doctors never felt comfortable enough to send him back up to the big leagues.
Johan Santana won the Cy Young award in both 2004 and 2006, but you better believe this night trumps both of those combined.
In the 8,019 games that the New York Mets have played, Johan Santana sits alone on the throne of New York pitchers: higher than Dwight Gooden, higher than Jerry Koosman and even higher than Tom Seaver. In the 8-0 win over the St. Louis Cardinals, Johan Santana has accomplished what no other Met before him has—27 outs without allowing a single hit.