By MIKE FITZPATRICK, Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — Johan Santana was past 130 pitches and fans at Citi Field were high-fiving with every out, hoping this was finally the night the New York Mets had waited for.
All those famous arms — Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden, Pedro Martinez, Tom Glavine — and not a single no-hitter in more than 50 years of baseball.
Not until Santana finished the job Friday night.
The two-time Cy Young Award winner pitched the first no-hitter in team history, aided by an umpire's mistake and an outstanding catch during an 8-0 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.
After a string of close calls over the last five decades, Santana went all the way in the Mets' 8,020th game.
"Finally, the first one," he said. "That is the greatest feeling ever."
He needed a couple of key assists to pull it off.
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.
"I saw the ball hitting outside the line, just foul," Johnson told a pool reporter.
The umpire acknowledged that he saw the replay afterward, but declined to comment.
"It was in front of his face, and he called it foul. I thought it was a fair ball," Beltran said. "At the end of the day, one hit wasn't going to make a difference in the ballgame."
With the next batter at the plate, though, 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.
"It's not like there's going to be an asterisk by it. That's the way the game goes," Matheny said.
Hometown kid Mike Baxter then made an extraordinary catch to rob Yadier Molina of extra bases in the seventh. Baxter crashed into the left-field wall full force, injured his shoulder and left the game.
"I'm glad I had a chance to be part of it. It's a great night for the Mets," said Baxter, who grew up 10 minutes from where Citi Field stands.
Santana certainly appreciated the effort.
"He saved the game," the pitcher said.
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. Relying on a sneaky fastball and the baffling changeup that's always been his signature, he struck out eight and walked five with wind gusting up to 30 mph.
"Amazing," Santana said after tossing the majors' third no-hitter this year. "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."
Before the game, Mets manager Terry Collins said he planned to limit Santana to 110-115 pitches all season. Collins practically sprinted to the mound after a two-out walk in the eighth, drawing boos from the crowd of 27,069, and then hustled back to the dugout after a brief chat, bringing cheers.
Santana, traded to the Mets by Minnesota before the 2008 season, was at 122 pitches going into the ninth. He finished with the most by a major leaguer since Brandon Morrow threw 137 for Toronto on Aug. 8, 2010, according to STATS LLC.
"I just couldn't take him out," a choked-up Collins said afterward, acknowledging he won't feel good about it if the left-hander's arm hurts in five days.
Prior to Santana's gem, there had been 131 no-hitters in the majors since New York began play in 1962, including Roy Halladay's in the playoffs, STATS said. None of them belonged to the Mets.
"I'm really happy for them," said Boston manager Bobby Valentine, who managed the Mets from 1996-2002. "That's been an albatross over the pitching in that franchise forever, since '62. One of the best pitchers they've ever had threw it and that also gives credibility to it."