- Last Updated: 11:20 AM, June 3, 2012
- Posted: 11:59 PM, June 2, 2012
Josh Thole remembers sitting around a clubhouse in the minor leagues a few years ago talking to Mets catching coordinator Bob Natal and Dan Murray, who was then a pitching coach. The topic turned to how to preserve a no-hitter.
“The one thing they said is if the perfect game is gone and you get in a situation where you can pitch around certain guys, so be it,” the Mets catcher recalled. “You go get the next one. That’s what kept running through my mind.”
Thole said he lived by that principal “about a half dozen times” Friday night while on the receiving end of Johan Santana’s historic no-hitter against the Cardinals at Citi Field. The Mets might have had an 8-0 lead, but every pitch was crucial.
“At that point you’re really trying to preserve the no-hitter,” Thole said. “That’s what’s important. You just don’t want to lay a cookie in there for no reason.”
Thole didn’t have to worry about any of that yesterday afternoon at Citi Field, where he was behind the plate trying to catch knuckleballs from R.A. Dickey. The threat of back-to-back no-hitters ended when former Met Carlos Beltran led off the second inning with a double to left. The consolation was catching back-to-back complete-game victories.
Dickey’s seven-hitter anchored a 5-0 Mets waltz over the Cardinals, extending the euphoria that carried over from Santana’s gem Friday night.
“Those guys have been pretty outstanding,” Thole said. “It’s been a fun couple of days.”
Not bad for a catcher who returned to the lineup Friday night after missing nearly a month because of a concussion. He was in the thick of the pressure Friday night, trying to get through the Mets’ first no-hitter in their 51 seasons of existence. He admitted he was nervous, wanting Santana to be aggressive without making a mistake, especially in the ninth inning.
Santana walked five and recorded the last of his eight strikeouts when he threw a low change-up to whiff David Freese for the final out. Fittingly, Santana’s signature pitch created a signature moment.
“The last pitch was going to be his best pitch,” Thole said. “If we were breaking it up, we were going out with his best pitch. No question about that.”
It would have hard to blame the Mets if they came out flat yesterday after a quick turnaround — they even reported early for a 10 a.m. autograph session before taking on the Cardinals. But the feel-good story continued thanks to Dickey and an offense that collected nine hits, including two from Thole, who also scored a run.
“The feel in the clubhouse was the best it’s ever been for the time I’ve been here,” Thole said. “Everybody was ready to go. We had a quick turnaround because of what happened. We were all amped up. Everybody was ready to play a ballgame.”
Catching a knuckleball isn’t anything like catching Santana’s change-up. It’s more like trying to catch a butterfly in a wind storm. But Thole was solid behind the plate. Much of it is simply being happy to play again. Catching back-to-back complete games was not on his radar when he was sitting at home in his Manhattan apartment trying to let his concussed head settle.
“I sat at home for the first seven days and just slept,” Thole said. “I didn’t watch much baseball. Then after that, I sat at home for four or five days and it was so frustrating. I wanted to be there with the guys. My wife was telling me I’m moody.”
Thole’s mood was all smiles yesterday as Dickey extended his scoreless streak to 17 1/3 innings as the Mets collected a National League-high sixth shutout of the season.
“Any time you put zeros across the board it’s a good thing,” he said.
That’s something Thole and the Mets could get used to.Follow @NYPostsports