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Johan Santana's gem had shades of 2006
Yadier Molina almost did it again. He almost broke Mets fans' hearts a second time.
In 2006 it was a ninth inning two-run home run off Aaron Heilman in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series, a blast that gave the Cardinals a 3-1 lead and effectively sent them to the World Series. On Friday, Molina nearly broke up Johan Santana's first-ever Mets no-hitter with a hard liner to left with one out in the seventh.
He didn't end up doing it, of course. A hero for his team in Flushing in 2006, Molina became just another frustrated batter along that same skyline six years later.
But the symmetry of June 1, 2012 and October 19, 2006 doesn't end with the Cardinals catcher.
That 2006 defeat sent the Mets into a tailspin they have yet to fully recover from. They haven't made the playoffs since. Carlos Beltran was involved in a polarizing moment that sealed the Mets fate. The sight of Adam Wainwright's curveball inspired indigestion. Perhaps the only good memory from that game is Endy Chavez's leaping grab of a would-be home run.
On Friday, the Mets whacked Wainwright's curveball. Beltran was involved in another debatable play. And a kid from Queens made Chavez's spectacular catch a footnote.
Sure, it wasn't as pretty. It took a stumbling, wall-crashing catch by role player Mike Baxter to prevent Molina's liner from turning tragic. And Baxter came out of the game and was diagnosed with a left shoulder contusion. But he saved the no-hitter.
Six years earlier, Wainwright was being praised for his save. With the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth, Wainwright struck out Beltran looking on a curveball to close out the NLCS.
But Wainwright wasn't nearly as effective Friday, giving up seven runs in 6.1 innings to take the loss.
Meanwhile, Beltran did at least swing the bat on Friday. Though he ended up with the same result: no hit.
Now a member of the Cardinals, he appeared to have a hit in the sixth inning, driving a ball down the left field line that kicked up a bit of chalk before bouncing into foul ground. But third base umpire Adrian Johnson called it foul, keeping the no-hit bid alive.
If the two games were bookends, at least the Mets got their happy ending.