Santana's mates feel tension in field, on bench

Santana's mates feel tension in field, on bench

NEW YORK -- The towel draped around R.A. Dickey's head prevented him from seeing much more than Johan Santana standing square on the pitching rubber.

Dickey and his teammates were not completely afraid to address what was happening at Citi Field during Santana's no-hitter in an 8-0 win over the Cardinals on Friday. They played manager throughout, wondering whether the left-hander returning from shoulder surgery would stay in the game, Dickey said. But when it came time for Santana's final strikeout of David Freese, Dickey was focused solely on Santana.

"I was on the bench," he said, "not moving or twitching a muscle."

Johan Santana
No-han!

Dickey battled nerves from the bench, where he could not do a thing to help his teammate. David Wright battled nerves at third base, where he did not want to make an error to extend the game. But Josh Thole never hesitated behind the plate, where he called his first game since landing on the disabled list May 8.

"It wasn't like, 'Oh, wow, what are we going to throw here? What can we throw here?'" Thole said. "No, it was coming more natural than anything. I had a pretty good feel of what he wanted to do tonight."

The good feelings persisted despite five walks and falling behind Freese, 3-0, before Santana recorded his eighth strikeout for the 27th out. Thole asked for a low changeup, and Santana delivered for his 15th strikeout in his past two outings and second consecutive shutout.

"I thought his last start was special, but this start was once every 50 years," Wright said.

Santana and his teammates all began to recognize the left-hander was on the verge of history around the sixth inning, when a crowd of 27,069 began to cheer each out.

Chants of "Jo-han" began in the top of the eighth inning, and Santana received his first ovation when he stepped into the batter's box in the bottom of the frame. It was the loudest game at Citi Field since its first Opening Day in 2009, Wright said.

"You don't think about the no-hitter as it's going on, but in the ninth inning, these fans were awesome -- so, so into it," said Thole, who asked to have his catching equipment authenticated. "That meant a lot to us. We were able to feed off of that."

The celebration poured onto the mound after Santana recorded the final out, then continued in the clubhouse after Santana completed his on-field interviews and received a shaving cream pie to the face.

His teammates remained sitting at their lockers with music blasting and champagne bottles opened before Santana entered the clubhouse and gave a short speech, thanking his teammates for their role in the first Mets no-hitter in franchise history.

Left fielder Mike Baxter may have played the largest role as he slammed into the left-field wall tracking a Yadier Molina fly ball for a seventh-inning out. It forced the Queens native from the game, but it reaffirmed that Santana could make history.

"Everything was just falling our way today," Wright said. "The flares were just enough. The balls on the end of the bat were hanging up enough for us to get under them. The hard-hit balls were right at us. You could kind of sense it midway through the game that something special was happening and we were catching some breaks."

Despite the breaks, the Mets still felt nerves in the final frame. Dickey knew St. Louis had a zero in the hit column, he just couldn't look at the scoreboard with his towel forcing tunnel vision solely on Santana.

"I wanted it so badly for him I could barely watch," Dickey said. "I tried to bring the towel around my head a bit so I could just focus on him and send every good thought his way."

Steven Miller is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.