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After 51 years, Mets fans finally get their night

The fact the Mets never had thrown a no-hitter in 51 seasons and more than 8,000 games was a growing guffaw in the baseball world. The Yankees have 11 no-hitters. The Astros -- who joined the National League in 1962 just like the Mets -- have 10. Everyone except the Padres has at least one. In 2008, the Web site NoNoHitters.com was born and it was dutifully updated every day when the Mets' opponent got its first hit.

Longtime Mets beat reporter Ed Coleman of flagship radio station WFAN in New York would tweet that every day, too, with a simple notation of the hit and the hashtag "#nottonightboss." It was as if to say he was reporting back to the home office not to worry about the mother of all Mets stories happening on their watch that night. (Coleman even threw a #Nottonightboss out on May 24 when Matt Harvey of the Bisons got broken up in the fifth by Scranton's Francisco Cervelli).

But tonight came Friday. And if it couldn't be Seaver or Koosman or Gooden or Darling or Pedro or so many other names who've been on the Mets' mound, it had to be Johan Santana. He's an ace. He's what the Mets have to build their staff around if they want to contend in the National League East. They're contending and he's back.

It was a brilliant performance, one you could never have seen coming in the wake of Santana's shoulder surgery. Sure, he was coming off a shutout (Dave Righetti in 1983 is the last guy to go shutout/no-no back-to-back), but Santana had never flirted with a no-hitter during his glory days in Minnesota or the early years with the Mets. He said he hadn't even had one in video games.

But he got stronger, got better command as the game went on. He got the luck of a bad call by third base ump Adrian Johnson (which would have been reversed if my NFL-style replay challenge proposal often discussed here is ever used). And he got an amazing catch in left field from Mike Baxter.

New York reporters I know have often fretted about that first Mets no-hitter, about it being on the road or going on at home when they're doing something else. Post columnist, St. Bonaventure grad and good friend of this corner Mike Vaccaro was home in Jersey when he made the call to hit the road after six innings. Forty-eight minutes later, he was at Citi Field to see the final two innings and catch history. How lucky he was.

He saw amazing stuff. You want bizarre connections from Friday night back to one of the lowest moments in Mets history? Think back to Game Seven of the 2006 NLCS at Shea against the Cardinals.

Yadier Molina hit the ninth-inning home run to win it. Molina was the guy who hit the fly ball that Baxter grabbed while crashing into the wall Friday.

Adam Wainwright threw the curveball that Carlos Beltran took for a season-ending strike three in '06. Wainwright was the starter and loser Friday.

And Beltran, in his first game in New York after leaving, hit the ball down the third-base line in the sixth inning that should have been a double but was ruled foul by Johnson.

Certainly it's the greatest moment in the Mets-Bisons connection. There's manager Terry Collins at the center of the decision during the game and the star of the postgame pressers with his emotional hopes that he didn't ruin Santana's career by leaving him in.

After the seventh and again after the eighth, you thought Santana was done. But how could Collins do that? "It's a runaway train," SNY analyst and former Mets pitcher Ron Darling said on the air. And he was right. You hope Santana is healthy, of course, but he deserved this chance and Collins was right to let him go.

Skip a start, skip his bullpen sessions between starts. Do whatever you need. The moment was too large to let slip away. Even if the ultimate worst were to happen and Santana were to never pitch again, I guarantee you there's a large segment of Mets fans who would utter nary a cross word about Collins' call.

There's catcher Josh Thole, who caught for the Herd on Thursday -- Thursday! -- and now was getting his gear authenticated by the Hall of Fame the next day. There's left fielder Baxter, a Whitestone native and avowed Mets fan, making the catch that puts him on the list of outfield moments in Queens joined only by Tommie Agee, Ron Swoboda and Endy Chavez. When he joined the Bisons last July from San Diego and hit a home run in his first swing in Coca-Cola Field, Baxter was stunned with happiness that he had that famous Mets "NY" on his undershirt.

Santana and Thole and Baxter walk together forever now. Tom Seaver comes to Buffalo next month as the speaker of the Triple-A All-Star Luncheon. Collins is in the Manager-of-the-Year talk. Still hard to process all the odd connections.

And when the final out was made, when David Freese swung through one final Santana change-up, how did WFAN's Coleman celebrate it on Twitter? In a perfect way: "Tonight, Boss. #Johan".

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Melk man delivers

He does so much of his work late at night on the West Coast that it's easy to miss but Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera completely went off in May. No other way to say it.

Cabrera batted .429 in the month, hitting safely in 25 of 29 games and tying Randy Winn's West Coast franchise record with 51 hits in a month. He had 16 multihit games, including four with three hits.

Said teammate Gregor Blanco: "That's a joke. Seriously."

Something to watch today as the Giants meet the Rangers: Cabrera has collected four hits for each of the last three Sundays, going 12 for 13 against the Diamondbacks, A's and Marlins. Last Sunday in Florida, he became the first Giant since Barry Bonds (1993) to collect four hits including a homer and steal two bases in the same game.

Cabrera's 78 hits entering Friday are the most by a Giant before June 1 since at least 1921.

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Stuff a sock in it

Let's just end the competition now for most ridiculous injury of the season. Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy has it locked up. Lucroy is out 4-6 weeks with a fracture of his right hand. Simple enough. But how did he get it?

Lucroy was reaching under his bed for a sock last Sunday night in a Los Angeles hotel room when his wife shifted a suitcase and the large bag fell on his hand. He kept quiet about the injury until he could not get through batting practice Monday and had to tell manager Ron Roenicke.

"I tried to 'wear it' today, to see if I could swing with it," Lucroy said. " I went down and took some swings and it didn't feel good, so I had to spill it."

Lucroy had a major league-leading .514 batting average with runners in scoring position and was a key man in handling the pitching staff. Things got worse for him when his wife started getting hate messages on Facebook, he told a Milwaukee radio station Wednesday.

"It's been a battle for me, personally, because there's no one to blame, and my wife is getting killed by this," he said. "It's not like she's not hurt enough already, not feeling guilty enough already."

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Around the horn

*The opening round of the annual first-year player draft is Monday and it will be televised at 7 p.m. by MLB Network.

The Astros have the first pick, with the top choice likely to be either Stanford right-hander and Houston native Mark Appel or Georgia high school outfielder Byron (Buck) Buxton. The Twins have the No. 2 and five of the first 72 choices.

*The Braves will retire John Smoltz's No. 29 prior to Friday's game against the Blue Jays. Smoltz will become the eighth player and ninth person (including ex-manager Bobby Cox) to receive the honor.

*Giancarlo Stanton's ridiculous May for the Marlins: A .343 average, 12 home runs, 30 RBIs, .432 on-base, .769 slugging and OPS of 1.201.

e-mail: mharrington@buffnews.com