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YORK -- A day before the two-year anniversary of umpire Jim Joyce costing a pitcher a no-hitter, Adrian Johnson assisted with one.
Johnson's foul call in the sixth inning went from costing the Cardinals a valuable baserunner in what was at the time a two-run game, to becoming a history-altering decision for a franchise that, before Friday, had never thrown a no-hitter. A ball that Carlos Beltran hit fair was ruled foul, taking away the only hit St. Louis actually got against Mets starter Johan Santana in an 8-0 loss.
While manager Mike Matheny insisted afterward that no asterisk belongs next to Santana's no-hitter, the feat will, however, forever be linked to a call.
"When things are meant to happen, they're going to happen," said Beltran. "It was in front of the guy's face. He saw it foul. I thought it was a fair ball. But at the end of the day, one hit wasn't going to make any difference in the ballgame."
It would have, however, made quite the difference in the significance of the ballgame.
"That's the way the game goes," Matheny said. "We're not going to sit here and cry about it. You could tell at the time that we thought it was a hit. More important than breaking up a no-hitter was that it was a chance to get a man in scoring position. We're not spending any time talking about that."
The controversial call came in the sixth, as Beltran lined a Santana slider down the third-base line. Johnson, while hopping out of the way, immediately gestured that the ball had landed foul. Beltran looked down toward Johnson for several seconds. It didn't take nearly that long for third-base coach Jose Oquendo to begin making his case to Johnson.
"I saw it hitting the line," Oquendo said. "I saw it hit the white."
Aside from Oquendo and Johnson, Mets third baseman David Wright had the next best vantage point.
"I haven't seen the replay, but off the bat I thought there was no question it was foul," Wright said. "In real time, it's extremely difficult. I'm a little biased, but my first instinct looked like it was foul."
When he sees the replay, Wright will see what the Cardinals did. And that would be chalk spraying up as the ball hit the foul line. Clearly, Beltran should have had a hit.
After the game and the implications of the call had become clear, Johnson had a brief exchange with a pool reporter about his ruling.
"I saw the ball hitting outside the line, just foul," Johnson said.
Asked if he had seen the replay already, Johnson answered in the affirmative. And?
"No comment," he replied.
Oquendo continued to chirp at Johnson throughout that sixth inning, and, at one point, Matheny joined him. Neither, however, was overly intent on taking away from Santana's night by lamenting over the call after the loss.
"Sometimes those plays go your way and sometimes they go against you," Oquendo said. "That's part of it. I know he's doing his best. There's nothing we can do about it."
Having just been ushered off the field, Santana had not yet reviewed tape of the hit before meeting with reporters.
"It was tough because it happened so quick," Santana said. "I wasn't able to see anything. He just called it foul and I stayed with it. There are times when one play makes the whole difference, one call makes the whole difference. If [it was fair], then tonight it was that call. I can't say anything about it. I just went with it. The umpire made his call and that was the end of it."