NEW YORK -- There is a period of about 15 minutes every night at Citi Field, Curtis Granderson said, where "the ball goes up and you just hope it's not hit to you." Rapidly, the sky melts from light blue to yellow, orange and a deepening red, obscuring fly balls
NEW YORK -- There is a period of about 15 minutes every night at Citi Field, Curtis Granderson said, where "the ball goes up and you just hope it's not hit to you." Rapidly, the sky melts from light blue to yellow, orange and a deepening red, obscuring fly balls from view.
That the light show coincided with Jacob deGrom's excellence on Friday was a matter of happenstance. Working on a no-hitter in the fifth inning, deGrom induced a routine fly ball from Andrew Knapp, with a Statcast-estimated catch probability of 99 percent. Granderson settled under where he thought the ball would land, only to realize too late that it was sailing over his head. The result was the first hit off deGrom in a 2-1 win over the Phillies, preventing the Mets from knowing what history might have occurred had Granderson made the play.
"You can't catch what you can't see," Granderson said.
Though deGrom was barely halfway through the game at that point, his pitch count nearing 80 when Knapp stepped to the plate, there was a buzz growing among the holiday weekend crowd at Citi Field. deGrom's repertoire was that electric, that dynamic. He had retired 14 of the first 15 batters he faced, seven via strikeout, and was on his way to his career-high sixth double-digit strikeout game of the season.
"We couldn't solve him," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said.
On the dugout bench, manager Terry Collins was already plotting with pitching coach Dan Warthen, discussing how deep into the game the pair would let deGrom pitch. Memories of Johan Santana's 134-pitch no-hitter in 2012, which wracked Collins' nerves, were fading. When asked how far he might have let deGrom go, the manager said simply: "Far."
Then Knapp's ball found grass and the paradigm shifted. Granderson, who insisted after the game that he had no idea deGrom was throwing a no-hitter, uttered a few choice words in the outfield. deGrom kicked the dirt in front of the pitching rubber, then squared up to face Ty Kelly, who punched an RBI single into left field. When he returned to the dugout after the inning, deGrom sent Gatorade cups flying, stewing over his lack of focus during Kelly's at-bat.
"Granderson lost the ball, and that happens," deGrom said. "But I've got to be able to get that out right there with two outs. And I left a fastball right down the middle. It was just a bad pitch on my part, and that was very frustrating."
Consider it a rare mistake for deGrom during a four-start stretch that has seen him go 4-0 with an 0.84 ERA, 31 strikeouts and eight walks. If he continues pitching like that, the Mets believe, more opportunities for history will come.
"Shoot, he's been doing well with his command," catcher Travis d'Arnaud said. "His in-between game work has been phenomenal. He's working hard, and it's definitely showing."
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook.