There I was, night off from the ballpark, listening and watching my favorite alternative rock band “Weezer” in Atlantic City New Jersey in the Bogata Hotel showroom. It was planned, the birthday gift from three weeks ago. What wasn’t in the plan was Johan Santana throwing a no-hitter at Citi Field on the first day of June.
A Friday evening at Citi Field where, I would usually be situated, upstairs in my perch in the comfortable press box, but the first no-no in New York Mets history, 50-years of futility and I was not there to see it.
Yes, frustration. And moments after Mets SNY Television voice Gary Cohen said after being questioned, ‘did he ever think it would happen, his response, ‘No, but now it has’ Weezer would finish their last number.
That number, “Say it Ain’t So.”
But it is true. After 8,020 games, Mets radio voice Howie Rose, and fans of the second baseball team in New York, can now say, the New York Mets have made baseball history. They are no longer one of two teams to not have a pitcher throw the illustrious no-hitter.
It is so, and the San Diego Padres have that lone distinction.
Mike Baxter, the kid from Queens, crashed into the center field wall on the warning track to keep the suspense going. The Carlos Beltran ball that hit the chalk beyond third base appeared to be an extra base hit. The umpire, according to replays may have got it wrong.
To Mets’ fans, and to Santana, the call went their way. The no-hitter is in the record books and well deserved for a pitcher who many said was finished.
It was back in late March. Santana was not supposed to come north with the team at the end of spring training. The comeback from shoulder surgery, which shut Santana down all last year, was slow and cautious. However, it was soon, according to Santana, working according to the plan.
That plan, which was heard since his opening day start in early April, was continue to make adjustments as this Mets team had trouble scoring runs, but staying competitive. Then the last three starts you sensed the plan was ahead of schedule.
Santana was throwing more pitches, going deeper into games. The changeup was effective, so was the slider. The fastball was getting close to his velocity, clocked close to 90, or more.
The manager, Terry Collins was more concerned about the pitch count. Last Saturday, at Citi field, Santana threw 94 pitches, the complete game shutout over the San Diego Padres. Collins let him continue, as he did Friday night with a career high 134 pitches, concerned about the shoulder.
After that sixth inning, Collins asked Santana, “How do you feel?” The ace, who said afterwards, he came to New York “to win a championship for the organization and fans,” told his manager, ‘I feel good, let me continue.’
It was a momentous occasion for a franchise that has been troubled with financial issues .And nothing has seemed to go right since that last game of 2006, when Beltran struck out with runners on base, at Shea Stadium, in game seven of the National League Championship Series.
That was against the same St. Louis Cardinals who go in the record book as victims of the Santana no-hitter.
It was the first and real significant moment at Citi Field for Mets baseball. Santana erased the close calls of Tom Seaver, the last Mets pitcher to take a no-hitter into the ninth inning. The first one, of three close calls, a perfect game broke up by Jimmy Qualls of the Chicago Cubs in 1969.
It will be remembered what Johan Santana did Friday night. The umpire, Adrian Johnson, at third base, may have missed that Beltran call in the sixth inning. But that does not matter now. Johan Santana may have put the New York Mets back on the map with that outing on the mound at Citi Field.
Just hope “Weezer” does not get in the way again for another possible and maybe another no-hitter in New York Mets baseball history, or perhaps another first, a perfect game as they go into game number 8,021.
E-mail Rich Mancuso: [email protected]