Cardinals-Mets preview

(AP) — Johan Santana threw the first no-hitter in New York Mets franchise history in the team’s series opener with the St. Louis Cardinals.

With the way R.A. Dickey has been pitching lately, the Cardinals could have another tough time at the plate Saturday at Citi Field.

Facing a St. Louis team that leads the NL in runs, homers and batting average, Santana was undeterred striking out eight while walking five to lead New York (29-23) to an 8-0 victory. It marked the 253rd no-hitter in major league history, but the first in the Mets’ 51-season history.

“Finally, the first one,” Santana said. “That is the greatest feeling ever.”

Santana caught a break in the sixth inning when former Met Carlos Beltran, back at Citi Field for the first time since New York traded him last July, hit a line drive over third base that hit the foul line and should have been called fair. But third base umpire Adrian Johnson ruled it foul and the no-hitter was intact.

“It was in front of his face, and he called it foul. I thought it was a fair ball,” Beltran said. “At the end of the day, one hit wasn’t going to make a difference in the ballgame. We needed to score more runs and we didn’t do that.”

The Cardinals (27-25), losers of three in a row, could again have problems generating offense against Dickey (7-1, 3.06 ERA), who was sensational in his last two starts.

After allowing a run, five hits and no walks with a career-best 11 strikeouts in a 3-2 win over Pittsburgh on May 22, Dickey yielded three hits and a walk while striking out 10 in 7 1-3 innings in Sunday’s 2-0 win over San Diego. Prior to facing the Pirates, Dickey had one double-digit strikeout game in the first 114 starts of his career.

“The knuckleball is a funny thing. It’s very enigmatic,” he said. “Overall, I felt pretty good with where it’s at.”

Although he had no trouble shutting down the Padres and Pirates, the NL’s worst two teams in runs scored and batting average, the right-hander was very good last month regardless of the opposition.

In May, Dickey went 4-0 with the majors’ fifth-best ERA (1.83), and the Mets won all five of his starts. New York, which has won five of seven, is 8-2 with the knuckleballer on the mound.

Dickey struggled a bit in his lone start of 2011 against the Cardinals, permitting four runs and eight hits in 6 1-3 innings of the Mets’ 10-inning win on July 20.

While the Cardinals could have some problems scoring runs Saturday, the same might be true for the Mets.

Probable starter Lance Lynn (8-1, 2.54) is coming off what St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said was “probably his best game.”

Lynn gave up two runs, five hits and a walk while matching a career best with eight strikeouts over seven innings in Monday’s 8-2 win over Atlanta. The Cardinals are hopeful that outing can get the right-hander back on track after he had a 5.00 ERA in his previous three outings. He had posted a 1.40 ERA in winning his first six starts.

In his only career outing against the Mets on July 20, Lynn gave up a run in 1 2-3 innings of relief.

He’ll have to be careful pitching to Lucas Duda, who hit a three-run homer Friday and drove in a career high-tying four runs. He has seven RBIs in his last two games after driving in three over his previous 12.

Matt Holliday, who had four straight multihit games heading into Friday, has given Dickey trouble, going 3 for 6 with a double.