For all the drama on Friday night, all the celebrating at Citi Field, there’s no getting around the obvious: this wasn’t anything like Johan Santana 10 years ago finally delivering a pitching-rich franchise the first no-hitter in its history.
To be sure, a combined no-hitter doesn’t carry the romance that is traditionally associated with the feat. After all, three of the five Mets’ pitchers who combined on the accomplishment Friday night admitted afterward they didn’t even know a no-no was at stake when they were on the mound.
In the end, however, it still felt like something special, with the fans up and roaring on every pitch as Edwin Diaz as finished off the no-hitter and the 3-0 win over the Phillies with a flourish, striking out the side in the ninth inning.
When it was over catcher James McCann didn’t go jumping into Diaz’s arms, but as the guy calling the pitches for all five pitchers, he seemed to take great pride in being part of an historic moment, especially knowing the Phillies are as dangerous offensively as any team in the National League.
“A no-hitter against that lineup, that’s really special,” McCann told reporters.
It’s only the second one ever for the Mets, and it started with Tylor Megill going five innings, followed by Drew Smith, Joely Rodriguez, Seth Lugo, and finally Diaz for the ninth. It took 159 pitches, in part because of six walks, so maybe it wasn’t the cleanest of games, but as McCann said, “Any no-hitter is special.”
It has been that type of April for these Mets, off to a 15-6 start and offering reason to believe this could be a special season as well. Perhaps that’s why Buck Showalter said he was thinking more about getting the win even in the ninth inning than the no-hitter, noting the importance of beating a hot Phillies team that came in with a four-game winning streak.
The players on the field and in the dugout, however, said they were living and dying with every pitch in the late innings, especially the ninth.
“I’ve never seen one all the way through,” said Brandon Nimmo. “So I was kind of like mumbling under my breath, ‘Strike out, strike out, strike out.’ And I was trying to visualize them swinging over the pitch. And then when it happened I was like, ‘Oh, yes,’ and I came sprinting in to be with the guys. It was really a special moment.”
It was Nimmo who made the play of the game, a sliding catch in right-center to rob Jean Segura of a hit in the third inning. At that point, of course, nobody was thinking about a no-hitter, and soon enough it was obvious that Megill would have no shot at it, as he struggled with his command enough that his pitch count forced him out after five innings.
From there Smith got four outs, all on strikeouts, while unaware the Phillies didn’t have a hit.
“I honestly had no idea until I got into the training room after being taken out,” Smith said. “As I was walking off the mound, the crowd was really loud and I was thinking, ‘Man, I must have pitched really well.’”
Rodriguez got the next four outs, followed by Lugo getting the last two outs of the eighth, both unaware of the potential history at stake. By then, however, the position players were counting down the outs.
“I was aware of it by the fifth inning,” Jeff McNeil said. “It was the coolest thing I’ve ever been a part of. … By the ninth inning we were all feeling it.”
None more so than Diaz, the first reliever to know the situation as he entered the game. At that point Citi Field was awash with drama, the crowd up and roaring, and the toughest part of the Phillies’ lineup coming to the plate.
The fans were so loud, in fact, that McCann told Diaz they would go with traditional signs rather than using PitchCom, so there would be no miscommunication. Then Diaz went to work, striking out Bryce Harper, Nick Castellanos, and J.T. Realmuto, all of them swinging at sliders.
“My slider was really good,” Diaz said. “In the bullpen it was nasty. I knew McCann would be calling it because we were facing the heart of their order.”
When Realmuto finally K’d to end the game, “the crowd erupted,” as McCann put it, and players on the field and from the dugout rushed to mob Diaz and celebrate near the mound.
“To be part of that was unbelievable,” said Pete Alonso. “We were super excited, and then we got in here (in the clubhouse) and we were acting like little kids, jumping around, having a good time. It’s one of my all-time highlights. How often do you see a no-hitter? It’s like seeing a white buffalo or a unicorn.”
Megill, in fact, said he’d never been a part of one, going all the way back to Little League, so as he sat in the press conference room together with the other four pitches and McCann to address the media together, he said:
“I’m ecstatic. It’s crazy. It’s cool.”
Most of the Mets’ players seemed aware of the significance as the second no-hitter in franchise history, even if they likely had no idea how agonizing the wait for the first one had been for fans over the years.
Nimmo may have had the best perspective. He’s the only current player who was in the organization — as a minor leaguer — when Santana no-hit the Cardinals on June 1, 2012, and he said that seeing the video from that night played in the ballpark before games gave the accomplishment Friday night added meaning.
“I’ve seen that a lot and sometimes you think, ‘That’s something I’d like to be part of.’ Now to be part of the second one, it’s pretty special. I’m trying to soak it all in because I know it’s one of those things they’ll be playing over and over. It’s part of history.”
In the end, that’s what mattered most.