Terry Collins was going to pull Jon Niese -- even if his chance of throwing the first no-hitter in franchise history was still alive.
“He would’ve come out of the game,” the Mets manager said of his 25-year-old left-hander, who was on a pitch count of 115. “You can’t sacrifice his healthy for one inning. ... I don’t think he was gonna get to go the distance, no.”
Niese carried a no-hitter through six innings, but Freddie Freeman broke it up with a seven-inning single on his 99th pitch, so it didn’t matter.
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But in the event that his no-hit bid was still intact, Niese was going to have to be dragged off the mound.
“I would’ve ran back out there [before they could take me out],” Niese said. “It would’ve been hard to take me out, that’s for sure.”
“I would’ve lobbied for him to stay in,” catcher Mike Nickeas said.
In his first start following an offseason that featured him getting a nose job and a five-year contract extension worth up to $46 million, Niese baffled the Braves on Sunday afternoon, going six-plus innings while giving up four runs (two earned) and two hits as the Mets swept the three-game season-opening series with a 7-5 win at Citi Field.
“It would’ve been nice [to get a no-hitter],” said Niese, who threw 66 of his 102 pitches for strikes. “But it spiraled real quick.”
Niese (1-0) walked three batters in the first two innings, but settled down from there. He retired 15 in a row before culminating a 10-pitch at-bat by walking Dan Uggla on a 3-2 backdoor cutter that was just outside leading off the seventh.
“I should’ve went after him,” said Niese, who was making his first start since Aug. 23, 2011, the day he suffered a season-ending intercostal strain of his right side.
Freeman hit the next pitch -- a 90-mph fastball -- through the right side of the infield. Just like that, the Mets had gone 7,971 games -- or 49 years, 11 months, 27 days -- without throwing a no-hitter.
The Mets will honor the 50th birthday of their first-ever game -- April 11, 1962 -- on Wednesday.
Inside Niese’s locker, there was a sign. “Happy Niese-ter,” it read.
Happy Niese-ter, indeed.