June 1, 2012; Flushing, NY, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Johan Santana (57) waves to the crowd after throwing the first no-hitter in Mets history against the St. Louis Cardinals at Citi Field. Mets won 8-0. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE
The New Jersey Devils are in the Stanley Cup Finals. The New York Yankees are the New York Yankees. Tim Tebow is in uniform for the New York Jets. But the weekend belonged to the New York Mets, as something was going on with the Amazin's. Everything was not only good and right with the team but things were downright magical. The universe was taking a break from its perpetual hail storm that beats down on the organization. And suspicions were raised. Usually, one has to watch a Met game with one eye while the other is keeping tabs on the anvil that's about to drop on the team. So what in the name of Gil Hodges was going on? First, Johan Santana throws the franchise's first no-hitter that even The Franchise couldn't do. Mike Baxter joined Endy Chavez, Tommie Agee and Ron Swoboda in the team's annals of amazing catches, and he sacrificed six weeks of his season to do it. And Gary Cohen and Howie Rose made the perfect calls after Santana threw the perfect pitch to strike out David Freese. After 50 years of hearing about all the pitchers who left Queens to go on to throw no-hitters elsewhere (and a few did it in the Bronx to rub salt into the wound), the Mets and their fans finally have their transcendent moment, their place in the history books.
Next, R.A. Dickey tossed a complete-game shutout, avoiding a "Well, that didn't last long" situation by keeping the winning going. He struck out nine batters without a walk -- is he the best control pitcher the world of knuckleballers has ever seen? And the game came on a perfect Saturday afternoon, where even the radio announcers were magical: Josh Lewin calling the Mets' first three runs that came on ground outs and an error "the three most uninteresting runs of the season," and Rose on a slower-than-slow, 54-mile-an-hour knuckler -- "You can't even give it a ticket." Jon Niese continued the starting-pitching shutout streak with six innings of his own in Sunday's easy 6-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals, striking out a career-high 10 batters and notching two hits to boot.
Even off the field, the Mets were doing and saying all the right things. Sandy Alderson and David Wright avoided a distracting, dragging-it-out scenario by squashing all the contract extension noise on Friday and Saturday. Old Mets are turning into heroes before our eyes, as former GM Jim Duquette (who got to call Santana's no-hitter on WFAN while filling in for Lewin) is donating a kidney to his 10-year-old daughter. While John Franco was inducted into the team's Hall of Fame before Sunday night's game.
The rest of the week didn't belong to the Mets, though, as that anvil fell on them as if they were Wile E. Coyote on Monday. They fought back as usual but Dillon Gee made a crucial error and Jon Rauch, who's now on the shelf with debris in his elbow, coughed up a two-run homer in the 5-4 loss to the Cardinals. Tuesday saw more fighting back but the Mets had more trouble with themselves than they did with the Washington Nationals in the 12-inning, 7-6 sloppy disaster of a loss. Despite another Scott Hairston home run and another Jordany Valdespin pinch-hit homer, they looked like a bumbling T-ball league team in the field, with errors, passed balls and botched double plays piling up like so many hairs collecting in the sink when Keith Hernandez trims his mustache, as (fifth-string shortstop) Valdespin and Elvin Ramirez (in his second big league game) appeared as if they weren't ready for major league pressure. Wright broke Jose Reyes' franchise run-scoring record, though, when he crossed the plate after hitting a solo home run. Wednesday's 5-3 loss was more routine. But on Thursday, Dickey came to the rescue and snapped the three-game skid (with help from a Lucas Duda two-run homer), by throwing seven-plus shutout innings in the 3-1 victory over the Nats. If anyone's counting, Dickey is 4-0 in his last four starts, has only allowed one run, struck out 38, walked three in just under 31 innings pitched and has a 24 2/3 inning scoreless streak going. On the season, he's 9-1, with a 2.44 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP.
And did we mention, Johan Santana threw a no-hitter? Just wanted to make sure. Now on to the other top stories of the week in the world of New York sports.
Still Alive: For the first three games of the Stanley Cup Finals, the Devils' nice, little Cinderella story was looking like it was just a prop in the Los Angeles Kings' magical run to their first-ever Cup title, as their Cinderella story was steamrolling over New Jersey's. LA has been a little tougher, their stars were a little better, their goalie was a little better, their defense was a little better, their offense was a little better, their power play was a little better, their penalty killing was a little better and they were a little better on face-offs -- but all that added up to being a lot better as they rolled to a 3-0 series lead. The ending of Saturday night's Game 2 was a repeat of Game 1, with another 2-1 overtime victory for the Kings, while the Game 3 4-0 loss for the Devils appeared as if it would put New Jersey on their deathbed. But the Devils prevailed in Game 4, thanks to the heroics of Martin Brodeur, along with a Patrik Elias goal, and then the game-winner by the new Mr. Clutch -- Adam Henrique -- who (looking like the spitting image of Queen's mustachioed lead singer Freddie Mercury) took a nifty pass from David Clarkson and put the puck in the back of the net, for his third game-winning goal of these playoffs. Now all the Devils have to do is beat history, defeat the Ghosts of Hockey Past (not to mention the Kings) and do what the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs did, come back from a 3-0 deficit to hoist the Cup. Those Leafs featured a Hall of Fame goalie in Turk Broda, as the Devils do, and they whipped the New York Rangers, 4-2, to reach the finals, same as the Devils. A mere coincidence? Or a foreshadowing of things to come?
Moving On Up (Or Going Backwards?): Things were going swimmingly for the Yankees with a series win vs. the Detroit Tigers and taking the first two games against the Tampa Bay Rays. Two grand slams in one week? Stellar starting pitching performances? Rocketing up in the standings? It was looking like they were awakening from their early season doldrums and solving a few of their biggest problems as well. On Sunday, Phil Hughes tossed the first complete game of his career, in the 5-1 win over over the Tigers. Andy Pettitte threw seven-plus shutout innings in Tuesday's 7-0 win over the Tampa Bay. Ivan Nova chipped in with eight stellar innings, while only allowing one run, on Wednesday, as the Yanks defeated the Rays again, 4-1. Even CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda were solid in their starts this week. Curtis Granderson and Russell Martin laughed in the face of the Bombers' bases-loaded issues by belting grand slams, and the power supply was old-fashioned Yankee-like for most of the week, with Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano (who was named captain of the AL's home run derby team) all hitting long balls. But the Yankees ended their week with an ugly 7-3 loss to the Rays, missing a chance to catapult into first place. Cano and Rodriguez failed with the bases loaded, while A-Rod made an earlier throwing error that cost them. It was a one-step-back game after taking two steps forward the previous five games. But they're only a half game out of first place, behind the Rays and Baltimore Orioles, heading into the Subway Series.
MLB Draft: On the first night of the draft, the Mets selected Louisiana high school shortstop Gavin Cecchini with the 12th pick (who just happened to have witnessed Santana's no-hitter at Citi Field) and Purdue catcher Kevin Plawecki with 35th selection. The Yankees chose pitcher Ty Hensley, an Oklahoma high-schooler, at No. 30. (Go to Amazin' Avenue and Pinstripe Alley for all draft news and analysis for the Mets and Yankees, respectively.)
Raises & Extensions: With the feud between Osi Umenyiora and the New York Giants reaching Hatfield vs. McCoy levels, the two parties finally came to an agreement, with Umenyiora getting a raise, to $6 million, up from the previous $4.7 million. And the Giants rewarded the much-deserved Tom Coughlin with an extension, which will put him on the sidelines through the 2014 season. The $20 million payout over three years makes him the third highest paid coach in the NFL. "It's always been my belief that it is an honor and a privilege to be the head coach of the New York Giants," he said. Darrelle Revis is not feeling like it's an honor and a privilege to play for the Jets these days, though, as he's making a lot of noise about wanting to redo his contract yet again. And though it's most likely much ado about nothing, Santonio Holmes pulled himself out of OTAs on Thursday, citing too many reps too soon.
Blueshirts Fallout: Rangers right wing Marian Gaborik is going to need shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum suffered in the first-round series with the Ottawa Senators, hence his subpar scoring output in the playoffs. His recovery time is expected to be about six months.
More About John Franco: The all-time Met save (276) and games pitched (695) leader finished his Met career (1990-2004) with a 3.10 ERA and 1.365 WHIP and was the second longest tenured player in franchise history, only behind Ed Kranepool. The Brooklyn native, who always wore an orange NYC Department of Sanitation T-shirt under his jersey in honor of his father, twice led the league in saves and made one All-Star Game as a Met. In 15 postseason games with the team, he had a 1.88 ERA, 0.977 WHIP, one save and a 2-0 record, which included the only win in the 2000 World Series for the Mets. And he couldn't have spoken truer words about himself and how the fans viewed his pitching: "For those 14 years that I played here I always gave it my best. It wasn't always easy, and I'm sure I kept a lot of you on the edge of your seats. But I had it under control all the time."
And that's the New York week that was.