This Week in Baseball: Johan Santana’s No-hitter

It was a night of firsts in New York.

Johan Santana threw 134-pitches in an 8-0 victory over the defending World Champion St. Louis Cardinals, as he earned his first and the New York Mets first no-hitter in franchise history.

Santana’s no-hitter is one of the best pitcher stories in baseball history.

While most Chicagoans – and for that matter White Sox fans – remember Santana during his time with the Minnesota Twins as he dominated the AL Central along with Francisco Liriano as the best one, two punch in baseball in the mid-2000’s, Santana has fallen off the radar a little bit since leaving the Twins.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner and 2006 Triple Crown winner signed a six-year, $137.5 million contract with the New York Mets after the 2007 season and immediately became the number-one pitcher in the Mets’ rotation. Despite a successful 16-7, 2.53 ERA season in 2008 and finishing third in the NL Cy Young race, Santana began a stint of injuries that would prevent him from continuing his domination of hitters.

At the end of his first season with the Mets, Santana had to have surgery to repair a torn left meniscus that he had been pitching on during a playoff push. In 2009, Santana had season-ending arthroscopic surgery to remove bone chips in his left elbow. The following season, he had to have surgery to repair a torn anterior capsule in his left shoulder. Last year, Santana didn’t even make a major league start as he recovered from shoulder surgery.

It’s amazing that the amount of success he had in 2004 – 20-6 record, 2.61 ERA, 265 K’s, 54 BB’s – Santana was never able to earn a no-hitter as a Twin. But on the first day of June 2012, Santana finally got what he and Mets fans have been waiting for when they signed him to his mega deal in 2008.

“I knew the Mets had never had a no-hitter,” said Santana. “I never had one. This is very special. I knew this means a lot to New York.”

What makes Santana’s story so intriguing is the fact that he is one of three pitchers to have shoulder surgery and pitch a no-hitter the following season—Jim Palmer and Dwight Gooden are the other two pitchers to do so.

Now, with every no-hitter thrown – and more so recently with technology and camera views – we have to analyze every play and call that could’ve ruined the no-no. Such as the poor call by the third base umpire who called the ball foul when it was clearly fair after replays from different angles were shown to fans at home. The ball clearly hit the line after crossing the base and there’s even a visible spot on the line where the ball landed proving it was fair.

But regardless, for any pitcher to throw a no-hitter, he and his coaches and teammates will admit you need a little luck to accomplish these feats and a few defensive gems, too.

To complete the no-hitter, Santana had to retire World Series MVP, David Freese for the last out and he did so by striking him out on a full count. With his career-high 134-pitches, Santana may sit an extra day or two after giving Mets fans exactly what they have been waiting for since 1962.

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