In no-hit bids, pitch counts come into play

Thanks to Johan Santana’s no-hitter last week versus St. Louis, the Nationals won’t have to face the lefty with the elite changeup when the Mets play in D.C. this week.

Santana, in his first season back after shoulder surgery, threw 134 pitches, about 20 more than he was supposed to throw, and the Mets want to give him extra time to allow his arm to get back to full strength. He’ll pitch Friday.

Santana is the Mets’ best pitcher, but this no-hitter story could turn sour for the Mets if Santana has a lengthy injury because manager Terry Collins left the franchise pitcher in the game for an extended pitch count.

It came down to history vs. Santana’s health, and although he would never admit it, Collins had to be pulling for the Cardinals to get a hit so that he could take Santana out of the game. Collins probably should have called Mets general manager Sandy Alderson during the game to ask him what to do with Santana.

The same situation happened in Oakland on Monday night when rookie Jarrod Parker, beyond his pitch limit, was throwing a no-hitter until the Rangers’ Michael Young led off the eighth with a single. Parker had thrown 120 pitches and A’s manager Bob Melvin was trying to make the decision between a possible no-hitter and a risking health to his star prospect.

This brings up the question: Are pitch limits making today’s pitchers too soft or does advanced medical research keep more young pitchers healthy?

By the way, the Mets needed 8,020 games to get their first no-hitter. The only team in baseball without a no-hitter is the San Diego Padres.

Tom Seaver had no-hitters broken up for the Mets three times in the ninth inning, and in the 1969 World Series, Jerry Koosman had a perfect game against the Orioles into the seventh inning at Memorial Stadium. The Orioles’ Paul Blair ruined the bid with a single.

“I shook off a pitch, but I can’t remember if I shook off a fastball to throw a curve or the reverse,’’ Koosman told me last week. “Before the game, I was absolutely thinking about a perfect game. But, I wanted to throw a perfect game and get a hit every time up. I failed on both counts.’‘

* At 19, Bryce Harper is all the rage with the Nationals, but the game’s second-youngest player, outfielder Mike Trout, 20, has made the Angels relevant in the American League West with Harper-like intensity. So far, Trout, called up April 28, has given Albert Pujols someone to drive home. Trout has two triples, both into the left-field corner, an 11-game hitting streak and several three-hit games. It is notable that both Harper and Trout have been compared to Mickey Mantle.

* The most impressive young pitcher has to be White Sox lefty Chris Sale, 23, who is 7-2 with a 2.30 ERA, 69 strikeouts and 18 walks. Sale combines nasty stuff with a funky delivery. He has a 15-strikeout game and in his last start, he threw a complete game, a day after the White Sox bullpen was tested in a 12-inning loss to Seattle. The amazing part of the story: Sale started in the bullpen. The team moved him to the rotation for a spot start and then he had to talk the White Sox into keeping him in the rotation after they told him he was going to the bullpen.

* The early trade speculation is that Red Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis could be on the block, considering the emergence of prospect Will Middlebrooks. The Dodgers, Reds, Phillies and Diamondbacks could be in the market for Youkilis. Wonder if the Orioles should make a trade for Youkilis and settle their revolving door at third base once and for all.

* When Miami acquired Carlos Zambrano from the Cubs, the Marlins were hoping they’d he’ll fill the role as the No. 5 starter. But after going 4-3 with a 2.81 ERA, the once-moody Zambrano is pitching like a top-of-the-rotation guy. And, he’d have a lot more wins if closer Heath Bell hadn’t blown saves in what would have three Zambrano wins.

* Wonder if Armando Galarraga, the pitcher who lost his perfect game with the Detroit Tigers when an umpire blew a call that would have been the 27th and final out, was watching when Santana got a break on an umpire’s call in his no-hitter. The umpires called a ball foul that clearly hit the chalk line behind third base, making it a fair ball. Cardinals shortstop Rafael Furcal didn’t think it tainted the no-hitter and he told Sirius-XM Radio: “Those things happen. Johan still pitched well enough to get a no-hitter.’‘