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“He wasn’t coming out. I wasn’t going to take him out,” Collins said. “The fight that would have taken place on the mound had I taken him out would have been a bigger story than the no-hitter.”

If Santana winds up missing a start, it could dampen one of the finest moments in team history. Santana wasn’t thinking about that. Not with a no-hitter just a few outs away.

“When I had that situation there, I knew I had to take the most out of it. And then we’ll figure it out tomorrow,” Santana said. “Today I felt fine. Definitely, the next couple days are going to be important to see how I recover, and if we have to take an extra day, there’s nothing wrong with that.

Terry and all the staff, they know what they’re doing. We’re going to do whatever’s best for all of us. If that means taking an extra day, there’s nothing wrong with that.”

When Collins went home Friday night, he said he was still hoping he made the right decision. He said he heard from general manager Sandy Alderson and chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon, among others.

“The general consensus was, ‘Don’t beat yourself down over this, you made the right move,’” Collins said. “I appreciate that. I appreciate their confidence in the move.”

Collins has been proactive about preventing injuries this season. In April, he learned that David Wright jammed a finger, and took him out of the lineup rather than let the star third baseman play through the pain and risk exacerbating it, or harming his production.

Wright missed three days and is off to a torrid start with an on-base percentage of .472, more walks than strikeouts, and, after going deep in Saturday’s 5-0 win, six home runs. Santana has waited an extra day between starts when the schedule and roster allowed, and Collins has limited his pitches. In a four-hit shutout of San Diego his previous time out, Santana needed only 96 pitches, though Collins said he would have pulled him after about 10-15 more.

Though pitch counts are mostly a guess at limiting fatigue, and some pitchers can tolerate more use than others, Collins was anxious. In the end, he just couldn’t bring himself to deny Santana his moment, even though he knew it was a risk.

“You take a major piece and all of a sudden he’s not there and he’s a big piece, you really struggle with, ‘Was it the right decision to make?’” And we won’t know for a couple days,” Collins said. “Sandy supported it, Jeff supported it. I got a tremendous call from Tony La Russa today, which I was appreciative of, saying, ‘Look, you did the right thing.’ So when it comes from those people, you feel a lot better about it.”

Whatever the cost winds up being, the Mets have their first no-hitter.

“My first reaction was, ‘Wow, they finally did it,’” Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver said in a statement. “Honestly, not having a no-hitter was an anomaly. It’s great to get this off the franchise’s back. Now they can’t say the Mets are without a no-hitter.”

Another former Mets ace, Dwight Gooden, said he was flipping between an NBA playoff game and the Mets game, at least for a while.

“Once it got to the seventh inning, I was like, forget the Heat game,’” Gooden said. “I’ve always been a Met at heart.”

The absence of a no-hitter had dogged fans and the organization for years — the last several of which have been full of late-season collapses, injuries, trades and only recently, a little bit of promise from some young players who have contributed.

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