NEW YORK -- For decades, the thought of a no-hitter at Shea Stadium or Citi Field seemed inherently outlandish. The expansion Mets went a full half-century without one, before Johan Santana altered history two summers ago.
Now, no-hit bids are suddenly ubiquitous for the team from Queens. Jacob deGrom took one into the seventh inning Saturday night. Jake Peavy did the same for the opposing Giants. But it was deGrom who prevailed in a 4-2 Mets victory that further entrenched him as one of baseball's brightest young pitchers.
"I think we all have to start to understand this kid's got a little something special in him," Mets manager Terry Collins said.
Half an inning after deGrom gave up his first hit of the evening, Peavy cracked for one of his own in the bottom of the seventh, when Daniel Murphy hit a one-out fly to left. Outfielder Michael Morse took his first step in toward the plate, hesitating just long enough for the ball to carry over his head for a double. The next batter, David Wright, also took advantage of Morse's defense, dumping a single into shallow left field as Morse paused again.
"To win a game like that, you need a break to go your way and that was probably the one I'd love to have back," Peavy said of Wright's single. "You make a pitch like that on a good player, that's what good players do -- they get enough of it just to float it over the infield."
Following a hit batsman, Peavy proceeded to give up a sacrifice fly to Travis d'Arnaud, an RBI single to Juan Lagares and a two-run double to Wilmer Flores, transforming his perfect-game bid into a comfortable cushion for the Mets.
Thanks to some fine defense behind him, deGrom took his own no-hit bid into the seventh, ultimately demonstrating just how difficult it is to throw one. With two outs in the inning, deGrom's first-pitch curveball tumbled well below the strike zone, but Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval ripped it into the left-center-field gap nonetheless. Though Lagares gave it a diving effort, he did not come particularly close to catching the ball.
"Probably not, but I had to try," Lagares said when asked if he had a chance at the ball. "It was the only thing I could do for that guy -- just try. You never know."
Lagares made perhaps the game's finest defensive play five innings earlier, sprinting full speed after Brandon Belt's two-out drive in the second. Without breaking stride, Lagares caught up to the ball at the lip of the track, gloving it with just enough time to arrest his momentum before hitting the wall.
deGrom finally cracked for two runs in the eighth on Travis Ishikawa's pinch-hit single, lasting 7 1/3 innings while striking out seven. It marked the first time in five games that he had given up more than one run in a start, though the rookie's ERA still dropped two-hundredths of a point to 2.77 while winning his fifth straight start. His no-hit bid, which was the third longest by a rookie in franchise history, increased deGrom's franchise rookie record to 66 1/3 consecutive innings without allowing a home run.
"I've had a little bit of success up here," deGrom said. "I feel like if I go out there and pitch like I have been, that I can pitch here [in the Majors]."
It was the Mets' second legitimate no-hit bid in the past two weeks, coming 11 days after Bartolo Colon took a perfect game into the seventh inning in Seattle. And it wasn't even outlandish in the context of deGrom's season.
Once a marginal prospect, deGrom has spent the past calendar year establishing himself as something more. He never boasted the prospect hype of Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler or Noah Syndergaard, or even of lesser-known Rafael Montero. Entering Spring Training, deGrom sat ninth on the organization's starting-pitching depth chart, which didn't even include the injured Harvey.
Collins saw things differently, however, remembering the glowing scouting reports his staff had always provided on deGrom. The rookie has since proven them right, entrenching himself in the organization's future plans. Barring a trade or injury, he is a lock at this point to be in the 2015 rotation alongside Harvey and Wheeler.
His name, for the first time, does not look out of place next to theirs.
"It's going to be unreal," deGrom said. "When Harvey comes back, I think we're going to have a great staff. We look forward to it. We want to make a run at this now with what we have, and we look forward to next year, too."