That just happened

Johan Santana threw a no-hitter tonight. It was the Mets’ first in 8,020 games since they started playing in 1962. And it was awesome.

This is a time when I should try to string together coherent thoughts, but my Mets-fan excitement is making it difficult. So here are some incoherent thoughts:

– With one out in the ninth inning, I ditched the press box for a standing spot in the Excelsior level behind home plate. It was — obviously — the first truly great moment I’ve seen at Citi Field. The crowd produced a shrill, steady whoop throughout the frame, swelling to a roar when Santana notched the second strike on David Freese’s foul ball.

Maybe this is embarrassing to admit, but I was trembling. I’m not entirely sure if it was from excitement, caffeine or the cold, but I stood there shaking in my shoes as Santana chased the Mets’ first no-hitter. Sure, it’s one game, and no-hitters are frivolities in some way, and I know it’s not actually as important as a team clinching the pennant or — imagine — winning the World Series. But then it’s baseball. Who’s to say what about it is important and what isn’t when it’s inherently unimportant?

I’ve been a Mets fan since 1987, conscious of the possibility (and unlikelihood) of their first no-hitter until the opponents’ first hit in every single Mets game I’ve watched in my entire life. The pining long predates my understanding of batting average on balls in play and baseball’s pervasive randomness and all that. I honestly don’t know what it’ll be like to watch a Mets game now without this eventuality looming.

I hugged a maintenance guy and high-fived a security guard. I probably shouldn’t have celebrated with my credential on, but whatever. It felt awesome. It actually reminded me of the Grand Slam Single game from 1999 — the way the whole stadium came together: a massive, raucous family reunion.

– Speaking of Mets fans: Mike Baxter. If you somehow missed it, Baxter slammed against the left-field wall full-speed on a running catch in the seventh inning that saved the no-hitter. Baxter said afterward that he would have made the same play if it were a close game that wasn’t a no-hitter, and maybe that’s true. We haven’t seen enough of Baxter to really know.

But I find it difficult to believe that anyone who grew up a Mets fan isn’t standing out in left field thinking the whole damn time about the gravity of the situation. I’m projecting here, but I like the idea that Mets-fan Mike Baxter was going to do absolutely everything he could to preserve Santana’s effort. And he did.

After he crashed into the wall, Baxter crumpled up on the warning track but somehow held onto the ball. When he was finally helped off the field by the Mets’ trainers, the crowd gave him a standing ovation. It was a beautiful moment. Please do your part to make sure Mike Baxter never pays for a beer in New York ever again.

– Terry Collins said before the game that, by his understanding, the most important thing he had to do to keep Santana healthy in his recovery from shoulder surgery was limit the lefty’s pitch counts to about a 115-pitch maximum. Santana threw 134 in this one. Collins choked back tears throughout his post-game press conference and said he’ll feel awful if Santana can’t pitch in five days.

For the sake of accountability, I should mention that I tweeted that it seemed like the best idea to take Santana out after he had thrown 120 or so pitches through 8. Obviously I’m glad that didn’t happen. Also, from the sounds of it, no one but Santana was going to take Santana out of that game. You remember how he feels about coming out of games before he wants to, right? The “I’m a man! I’m a man!” thing?

– Johan Santana is a man.

– Oh, so there were a couple of questionable calls by umpires. A line drive down the third-base line by Carlos Beltran, notably, appeared to hit the line. But guess what? Bad calls, for better or worse, go both ways. The Mets have lost games and seasons on bad calls. That evens out. It worked out in their favor tonight. Also, if this game happened in 1997 before HD TV and the Coors Light Freeze Frame and everything else, they’d have replayed that foul ball a couple of times, everyone would have shrugged, like, “whoa, that was close,” and then we’d never make a whole thing out of it.

– no-hitter no-hitter no-hitter no-hitter!

– R.A. Dickey called Santana “supernatural” after the game. That happens to be the name of the (Carlos) Santana album featuring “Smooth,” the song to which Santana warms up. I have hated this song since it got wildly overplayed immediately after it came out, but while Santana was warming today, I found myself thinking, “Man, (Johan) Santana’s going to make me like this song.” No-hitter!

You’ve won this time, Rob Thomas:

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