A Complicated History: Did The Mets Throw The Franchise’s First, Second, or Third No-Hitter?

(L to R): Johan Santana, R.A. Dickey, and Tylor Megill./Photo edited by John Schilling

By John Schilling

  If 2022 has been indicative of anything, it’s that the New York Mets are a force to be reckoned with, and this was especially apparent last Friday, Apr. 29 as five Mets pitchers threw a combined no-hitter, the second in Mets franchise history…or was it?

   For years, Major League Baseball (MLB) fans alike have trolled Mets fans over the team’s first no-hitter, which came on June 1, 2012 after then ace Johan Santana threw 134 pitches through nine innings of hitless baseball. On paper, the Mets accomplished something the team had never enjoyed in its 50-year history, but deep down, baseball fans knew that Santana actually came up short.

   It was the top of the sixth inning of that game when former Mets outfielder, future Mets 76-day manager, and then St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Carlos Beltran stepped up to the plate against Santana and smacked a line drive down the third baseline just foul, according to third base umpire Adrian Johnson. MLB’s controversial instant replay with manager challenges for questionable calls only became a thing in 2014, but had it existed two years prior, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny surely would have challenged Johnson’s call and the replay would have shown it to have slightly dusted the white of the foul line: making it a fair ball, instantly killing Santana’s no-hit bid, and leaving the Mets without a no-hitter for 10 more years. 

   Obviously, this never happened, but many people have continued to deny the legitimacy of Santana’s no hitter from Twitter users declaring it a “1 hitter” to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper mocking it with an asterisk on the front cover page of its sports section the next day. Beltran, however, took the high road. 

   “It was a special night, everything came up perfect for Johan,” Beltran told the New York Post of his former teammate. “What can I say? He’s a good pitcher, he’s a competitor, he’s a good man, also.”

   As for Johnson, he defended his call, claiming he “saw the ball hitting outside the line just foul.’’ After confirming he reviewed the replay after the game, he had no further comment, seemingly indicating his error, but fans will never know for certain. 

   Only one thing was certain though: this call put a blemish on Santana’s no-hitter and prevented Mets fans from the feeling of closure that the team finally had one. What many have failed to remember, however, is that the Mets sealed yet another “no-hitter” just twelve days later in all-star R.A. Dickey, who would go on to win the National League Cy Young Award and get traded to the Toronto Blue Jays after the 2012 season.

   The June 13 game took place at Tropicana Field against the Tampa Bay Rays, and Dickey, like Santana, had a third baseline hiccup in his “no-hitter” but to no fault of his own. 

   In the bottom of the first inning, Rays outfielder B.J. Upton, later known as Melvin Upton Jr., came up to the plate against Dickey, and on a 2-1 count, he chopped a ball down the third baseline where Mets third baseman and Upton’s childhood friend David Wright was ready to scoop it with his bare hand before making a routine throw to first base for the out, but this never happened.

   As Wright ran towards the ball, it lightly grazed his right hand before hitting the ground and rolling behind him, making Upton safe on what should have been a routine out. Instead of giving David Wright an error and preserving Dickey’s no-hit bid, the official scorer gave Upton a base hit and ended Dickey’s no-hit bid before it ever really started.

   Given that it was the first inning, whispers of Dickey throwing a no-hitter never happened throughout the game’s duration. This came only after Dickey went on to throw 8.3 innings of hitless baseball after that supposed one-hit play with 12 strikeouts and 106 pitches, giving him an impressive but far-from-significant one-hitter.

   After the game, the Mets immediately filed a formal request to change the ruling of the hit to an error on Wright, a long shot to preserve the no-hitter.

   “I tried to make the play. I didn’t make it,” Wright told ESPN after the game. “[…] If they want to go back and give me an error, they can do that. I guess there’s a handful of guys on that team you would have to barehand it and rush it. I wish it would have been somebody a little bit slower, where I could have taken my time and gloved it.”

   Ultimately, the commissioner’s office decided to uphold the official scorer’s verdict, and it was as if the opposite had happened. A controversial call at third base granted the Mets a no-hitter on June 1 and deprived them of one on June 13 of that year. In different ways, these two games came with blemishes that have haunted Mets fans even 10 years later during the team’s 60th anniversary season, making last Friday’s combined no-hitter just that much sweeter. It wouldn’t be the Mets, however, if so-called blemishes didn’t continue to haunt this team.

   After starting pitcher Tylor Megill threw five innings of hitless baseball and five strikeouts against the Philadelphia Phillies and relievers Drew Smith, Joely Rodriguez, and Seth Lugo combined for three innings of hitless baseball and four strikeouts, closer Edwin Diaz sealed the 17th combined no-hitter in MLB History in the ninth inning with three straight strikeouts. The five pitchers had also combined for 159 pitches, the most for any no-hitter in MLB’s entire history.

   The pitching was dominant, as was the Mets’ offense and defense, and there weren’t any questionable calls…so where was the so-called blemish? Simply in the fact that it was a combined no-hitter and not Megill’s lone effort.

   “A combined #nohitter doesn’t count as a real no-hitter. Sorry cockroach @Mets fans,” tweeted Josh M (@JoshMRadio), a radio personality. 

   “A combined no-hitter is not nearly the accomplishment of a real no-hitter,” tweeted SNY sports anchor Sal Licata (@sal_licata). 

   Many have since come to the Mets’ defense, but if anything has been made clear in the recent days, it’s that the amount of no-hitters the Mets have enjoyed in their franchise history depends entirely on who you ask.

   Officially, there’s two. Some may argue Dickey’s questionable one-hitter makes three. Others will claim zero and that the Mets have yet to actually throw one free of dispute. Until then, the Mets’ no-hit efforts remain as unsung as ever before.