Fifty-one seasons, covering 8,020 regular-season games and 35 one-hitters. And finally a New York Mets pitcher has authored a no-hitter.

Left-hander Johan Santana, fully recovered from shoulder surgery in September of 2010, tossed the gem in an 8-0 victory against the defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals last night. Santana struck out eight and walked five during his 134-pitch no-hitter. This is the first time the hard-hitting Cardinals have been no-hit since July 29, 1990.

Santana’s final pitch struck out David Freese, sending the Mets and the crowd at City Field into delirious celebration. Santana caught a couple of breaks. In the sixth inning, Carlos Beltran lined a ball down the left-field line that was ruled foul. TV replays showed it was fair. Then left-fielder Mike Baxter made a tremendous running catch of a fly ball while crashing into the wall in the seventh inning. He had to leave the game.

Santana was making just his 11th start since missing all last season following shoulder surgery. He threw a career-high 134 pitches in hurling the third no-hitter of the baseball season.

After his historic night, Santana exclaimed: “Finally, the first one. This is the greatest feeling ever.”

Phil Humber pitched a perfect game for the Chicago White Sox at Seattle on April 21 and Jered Weaver of the Los Angeles Angels no-hit Minnesota on May 2.

Now that the Mets have theirs, the San Diego Padres are the only big league franchise without a no-hitter.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)