Mike Baxter grew up a Mets fan. On Friday night, the outfielder helped preserve history for his hometown team.
The Whitestone, N.Y., native stymied the biggest threat to Johan Santana's no-hitter in an 8-0 win over the Cardinals at Citi Field. He came through with a spectacular catch in the seventh inning to help keep the first no-no in Mets history intact, though the physical sacrifice that the play required forced Baxter to leave the game.
"It's an honor to be able to make a play for Johan, but ultimately, it's his night," Baxter, 27, said. "He was incredible tonight, from start to finish. He really had it all working. What a night for him and the Mets."
Yadier Molina lifted a deep drive to left with one out, sending Baxter back, tracking it on a high-speed dash toward the warning track. Molina's drive seemed destined to drop for a hit, if not extra bases.
All Santana could do was watch.
"When he hit the ball, I didn't know," Santana said.
But Baxter managed to reel in the ball on a full sprint, the ball juggling some in his glove. Baxter snared it but didn't have enough time to brace himself for the impending collision. He slammed shoulder-first against the left-field wall before falling in a heap on the warning track.
Santana responded with a celebratory clap to his glove, rejuvenated by the survival of his no-hit bid.
Baxter said Santana later thanked him.
"That was amazing," Santana said. "When Yadier hit the ball, I just saw Baxter going back and running into the warning track. When he made that catch, I didn't even know if it was in his glove. It was great. It was amazing."
Baxter showed little movement as he laid on the ground. Trainers made the trip to the track to check on him, and he ultimately exited with a bruised left shoulder. Andres Torres replaced Baxter for the remainder of the game.
Though the injury forced him to leave, Baxter didn't let it prevent him from seeing the conclusion of the no-hitter, watching on television from the trainer's room. Baxter said he didn't undergo an MRI exam, though he may do so on Saturday.
"I'm OK -- we'll do some more stuff tomorrow," Baxter said. "I'm a little sore right now. We'll know more tomorrow, but as of right now, we're OK."
The left fielder's effort had even the opposition in awe.
"Unbelievable," said former Mets star Carlos Beltran, no stranger to highlight-reel plays in the outfield. "That was a great play -- full speed, going all the way back. I just hope that he's fine and that he can be back. He made a great play."
Mets teammate Kirk Nieuwenhuis said he initially though the ball would travel over Baxter's head. As soon as he realized Baxter made the catch, though, Nieuwenhuis felt more confident that the game would end in historic fashion.
"As a baseball fan, you do kind of sense that most no-hitters have a signature play like that," Nieuwenhuis said. "And after he made that play, it felt pretty real."
No no-hitter is possible without a little help from the defense. On Friday, Santana received it from Baxter in astounding fashion.
"Everybody knows that when you have a game like tonight, somebody has to come up big," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "There has to be a big play made, and Mike made it."
Jordan Garretson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.