NEW YORK — Johan Santana pitched the first no-hitter in New York Mets’ history, helped by an umpire’s missed call and an outstanding catch in left field in an 8-0 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday night.
After a string of close calls in their 51-season history, Santana finally finished the job in the Mets’ 8,020th game since the team was born in 1962.
“Finally, the first one,” Santana said. “That is the greatest feeling ever.”
He needed a couple of key assists to pull off the majors’ third no-hitter this season.
Carlos Beltran, back at Citi Field for the first time since the Mets traded him last July, hit a line drive over third base in the sixth inning that hit the foul line and should have been called fair. But third base umpire Adrian Johnson ruled it foul and the no-hitter was intact — even though a replay clearly showed a mark where the ball landed on the chalk line.
Hometown kid Mike Baxter then made a tremendous catch in left field to rob Yadier Molina of extra bases in the seventh. Baxter crashed into the wall, injured his shoulder and left the game.
Making his 11th start since missing last season following shoulder surgery, Santana (3-2) threw a career-high 134 pitches in his second consecutive shutout. He struck out eight and walked five.
“Amazing,” Santana said. “Coming into this season I was just hoping to come back and stay healthy and help this team, and now I am in this situation in the greatest city for baseball.”
Phil Humber pitched a perfect game for the Chicago White Sox at Seattle on April 21 and Jered Weaver of the Los Angeles Angels no-hit Minnesota on May 2.
Santana got a warm ovation as he headed out to the mound for the ninth inning, and the two-time Cy Young Award winner quickly retired Matt Holliday and Allen Craig on shallow fly balls.
With the crowd of 27,069 on its feet in a frenzy, World Series MVP David Freese went to a 3-2 count before his foul tip was caught by Josh Thole, just activated from the disabled list earlier in the day.
Santana pumped his left fist and slammed it into his glove as Thole showed the ball to plate umpire Gary Cederstrom and then went running out toward the mound.
The Mets rushed out of the dugout and mobbed Santana in a raucous dogpile as security tackled a fan who ran onto the field near home plate. Moments later, the pitcher raised his right arm and saluted the crowd, which was chanted his name from the eighth inning on. The big scoreboard in center flashed Santana’s picture and read “No-Han.”
“It was a crazy night — my fastball moving all over the place,” Santana said.
The Cardinals should have had a hit in the sixth.
Beltran, traded by the Mets to San Francisco last July after 6½ rocky seasons in New York, led off with a low liner over third. Television replays showed the ball nicked the foul line just behind the bag, taking a small chunk of chalk with it. But Johnson called it foul immediately and Beltran eventually grounded out.
“It was tough because it happened so quick. I wasn’t able to see anything,” Santana said.
“The umpire made his call and that was the end of it,” he said.
But with the next batter at the plate, Cardinals third base coach Jose Oquendo twice got in Johnson’s face for heated arguments — the two even appeared to bump each other. Rookie manager Mike Matheny also came out to protest, but nobody was ejected.
Almost exactly two years ago — on June 2, 2010 — Armando Galarraga lost a perfect game when first base umpire Jim Joyce admittedly blew a call that should’ve resulted in the final out. The miss in Detroit instead gave Cleveland’s Jason Donald a single with two outs in the ninth.
Major League Baseball had considered expanding replay for this season to review fair-or-foul calls and trapped balls. The change required the approval of MLB and the unions representing the umpires and the players — when there was no agreement, extra replay was postponed until at least 2013.
Santana cruised from there into the seventh, when Molina hit a one-out drive to deep left. Baxter, who grew up rooting for the Mets only 10 minutes from where Citi Field stands, raced back and made a terrific catch before crashing full force into the fence.
Baxter stayed down on the warning track as Mets trainers, players and coaches rushed out to him. Santana crouched in the infield with a couple of teammates and then made a few warmup tosses to stay loose.
Baxter walked off the field under his own power, with trainer Ray Ramirez holding the outfielder’s left arm. The Mets said Baxter has a bruised left shoulder and was having more tests.
“When I saw him running back onto the warning track and he made that play, it was amazing. An outstanding play and he saved the game,” Santana said. “All these guys, I want to thank them for what we accomplished.”
Lucas Duda hit a three-run homer off Adam Wainwright (4-6) and drove in four runs, tying a career high. Daniel Murphy added three RBIs.
The San Diego Padres, who started play in 1969, are now the only team without a no-hitter.
The Mets’ seemingly endless pursuit had become something of a famous quest, with at least one website even dedicated to counting off their total number of games without one each day during the season.
Seven pitchers have thrown no-hitters after leaving the Mets, a list that includes Hall of Famers Nolan Ryan and Tom Seaver, plus Dwight Gooden, David Cone, Mike Scott, Hideo Nomo and Humber.
Seaver came within two outs of a perfect game in 1969 and fell one out shy of a no-hitter in 1975, the previous time a Mets pitcher had made it into the ninth without yielding a hit.
NOTES: Santana’s previous career high was 125 pitches. Before the game, manager Terry Collins said he planned to limit the left-hander to 110-115 all season. … It was the eighth no-hitter pitched against St. Louis and the first since Fernando Valenzuela for the Los Angeles on June 29, 1990. … Mets 3B David Wright said in a radio interview on WFAN that he won’t talk to the team about a new contract until after the season because he doesn’t want his situation to be a distraction for the team. Wright’s salary is $15.25 million this season and New York holds a $16 million option for 2013, which gets voided if he is traded. After that, he can become a free agent.