Mets manager Terry Collins said in his post-game news conference that Jon Niese wasn’t going to go the distance Sunday, even if his no-hitter was still intact.
Niese took a no-no into the seventh, but after walking the Braves’ Dan Uggla he yielded a base hit to right to Freddie Freeman.
Asked by SNY’s Kevin Burkhart what would have happened if Niese made it through the seventh, Collins said he would have gone to the bullpen.
“He was going to come out of the game,” the Mets’ skipper said. “You know, you don’t sacrifice his health for an inning. So, he would have been out.”
Collins acknowledged that it would have been a tough decision, but he said he talked with pitching coach Dan Warthen that Niese would be limited to a maximum of 115 pitches.
Freeman’s single advanced the Mets’ 50-year-old no no-hitters count to 7,971 regular season games.
The only other team without a no-hitter is the San Diego Padres, whose streak could be traced back to a manager pulling a starter with his no-no intact.
The Padres, who began play in 1969, could have exited the club early. On July 21, 1970, the Mets were beating the Padres 1-0, but Padres starter Clay Kirby still had a no-hitter going through eight innings. With two outs in the bottom of the eighth, San Diego skipper Preston Gomez decided to pull Kirby for a pinch hitter, Cito Gaston. Gaston struck out, reliever Jack Baldschun gave up a ninth-inning leadoff single to Bud Harrelson and the Mets rallied to pad their lead to 3-0, which would be the final score.
Would Kirby have reached base and started a rally that would have given them a 2-1 lead and an eventual no-no win? Would Kirby have struck out, yet kept the no-hitter alive through the top of the ninth to set up a ninth-inning Padres walk-off victory? We’ll never know, and both clubs still have no no-no.
For the record, Mets managers have pulled a starter with a live no-no 14 times in team history, though most have been early in the game or because of injury. Niese’s would have been the furthest a Mets pitcher has gone while getting the pull.
On May 15, 1987 at Shea, Sid Fernandez held the San Francisco Giants hitless for four innings and had a 4-0 lead when he hit a two-out RBI triple to center. Fernandez injured his hamstring running out the three-bagger but returned to pitch the fifth inning and fought through the pain to keep his no-hitter going. Doug Sisk got the ball for the sixth inning, and he walked one batter and hit another before blowing Sid’s no-no on a Mike Aldrete single to left. More details about the other 13 instances like this can be found on our Pulled during a no-hitter page.