Mets in rare air with 'unicorn' of a no-hitter

April 30th, 2022

NEW YORK -- Tylor Megill, who began the second no-hitter in Mets history, was unaware of what he had started until long after he left the mound. Drew Smith and Seth Lugo were in the trainer’s room when the television broadcast tipped them off; they rushed out to the dugout for the ninth. So did Joely Rodríguez, who was receiving treatment as the realization washed over him. He, too, returned to the field.

Only Edwin Díaz understood the situation while he was in the game, though by that point, it would have been difficult for anyone at Citi Field to be caught unaware. When Díaz struck out Bryce Harper to open the ninth inning on Friday, the crowd was already largely on its feet. When Díaz fanned Nick Castellanos, more rose from their seats. When he struck out J.T. Realmuto to cap the 3-0 victory over the Phillies and the 315th no-hitter in Major League history, Díaz pumped his fist, let out a scream and allowed his teammates to envelop him.

“How often do you see a no-hitter?” mused first baseman Pete Alonso, who contributed a solo homer to the victory. “It’s like seeing a white buffalo or a unicorn.”

Megill had never been a part of one, even in Little League, but he played the most significant role in contributing the first 15 outs. Few came easily. With his velocity flagging and his control inconsistent, Megill needed 88 pitches to complete five innings. He walked three batters and was the beneficiary of a diving Brandon Nimmo catch in the third inning that robbed Jean Segura of a hit. Even at that point, manager Buck Showalter understood that Megill, a young pitcher with workload concerns, “obviously wasn’t going to finish the game.”

And so the no-hitter became even more of a unicorn, even more of a colorless buffalo. Of the 315 no-nos at the highest level, only 17 have been combined efforts. Only 27 have included at least six walks. This one checked both such alternative boxes, while also requiring more pitches (159) than any no-hitter since pitch counts became a widely available statistic in 1987.

To some, the combined nature of the no-hitter might cheapen the accomplishment. To the Mets, who are working to build a united team identity, it aggrandized the feat.

“It’s something that [will] be in history forever,” said James McCann, who caught all nine innings. “Whether it’s one pitcher or five pitchers, it’s a no-hitter. It’s just special.”

From Megill, the Mets turned to Smith, who is one of seven MLB pitchers to throw more than nine innings this season without allowing a run. Smith struck out four of the five batters he faced and departed to a standing ovation -- his first clue that something significant was happening.

Next up was Rodríguez, a late-spring trade acquisition who walked the first batter he saw, induced a double play on the next pitch, then brought the Mets into the eighth with the no-no intact. Rodríguez passed the ball to Lugo, a stalwart of this pitching staff since 2016. He needed only five pitches to record two outs.

Finally it was time for Díaz, who entered amid pulsing entrance music that brought much of an announced crowd of 32,416 to its feet. Many wore black shirts in solidarity with the Mets, who donned their black jerseys for the first time this season.

“The best way I can describe it is you shake up a soda bottle, and you’re just waiting for the cap to pop off,” Alonso said. “I feel like all of us knew what was going to happen because all of our guys, when they got the ball, they were just lights-out.”

Back in the clubhouse, following one of the most dominant innings of Díaz’s career, the Mets blasted DMX songs as they jumped in place and danced to celebrate. Megill referred to himself as “ecstatic,” while others poked fun at his emotionless exterior. Across the way, the Phillies soothed themselves with platitudes, even while acknowledging the greater truth to which this no-hitter pointed.

“That’s a good Mets team over there,” Harper said. “I don’t think they’re going anywhere any time quick.”

In that sense, this no-hitter rang differently than the one that Johan Santana threw on June 1, 2012. That no-no, the first in franchise history, provided a singular highlight for an otherwise underwhelming Mets team. It also removed the burden of history from Citi Field, opening the gate for others to follow.

“It’s one of the highlights that we see most often here before games, after games, during rain delays they always play that game again,” Nimmo said. “It’s something that you’re like, ‘I’d like to be a part of a game they just play over and over again.’”

As one of the longest-tenured Mets, Nimmo endured a lengthy wait, even as the club rose to prominence with one of baseball’s best young rotations. Throughout the league, 39 no-hitters took place after Santana’s, including efforts from 18 different teams.

Now, the Mets have another of their own. It was unorthodox. It was quirky. But it was, as Nimmo put it, “one of those ones that you guys are going to be playing over and over again.”