NEW YORK -- Jonathon Niese had retired 15 straight batters as Sunday's game reached the seventh inning, and anticipation at Citi Field was building. Could this be the first no-hitter in the New York Mets' 51-season history?
No matter, Niese was smiling when it was over. New York completed a season-opening sweep with a 7-5 victory over the Braves. For the first time in 27 years, and only the third time ever, the Mets are 3-0 while the Yankees are 0-3.
"We're going to surprise some people this year," Niese said.
New York is 3-0 for the first time since opening with four wins in 2007. The Mets have a .320 batting average and a 1.67 ERA.
"We're excited -- 3-0, man. You can't draw it up any better than that," Daniel Murphy said.
Atlanta, hoping to rebound from September's 9-18 collapse, is 0-3 for the second time since losing its first 10 games in 1988. The Braves are hitting .151 with seven runs and 14 hits.
"It's never good to come into the season and get swept," Brian McCann said. "Nobody in here is thinking about last year."
Same with the Mets, coming off their third straight losing season and overshadowed in New York by the glamorous Yankees.
Pitching for the first time since the Mets gave him a $25.5 million, five-year deal, Niese (1-0) allowed just two balls out of the infield through six innings. Freeman singled on his 99th pitch, a fastball that was up.
Mets manager Terry Collins doubted Niese would have pitched the ninth, even if the no-hitter was within reach. Collins and pitching coach Dan Warthen had decided on a 115-pitch limit, and the manager recalled how he took out Sid Fernandez from a Class-A game for Vero Beach in 1982 when the pitcher had a no-hitter and 21 strikeouts through seven innings but had thrown 130 pitches.
"You don't sacrifice his health for an inning," Collins said.
Niese, overpowering Atlanta with a 93 mph fastball, had been thinking about a no-hitter since "I guess the first inning." He was pretty sure the pitch count wouldn't have prevented him from going for it.
"I'd have ran back out. It would have been hard to take me out," he said in front of his locker, where an unknown prankster taped up a paper that read "Niese-ter bunny" with a photo-shopped picture of the pitcher in a white rabbit suit, holding a large carrot.
He allowed four runs -- two earned -- and two hits in six-plus innings with seven strikeouts and two walks. It also was his first outing since a $10,000 offseason nose job -- paid for by former teammate Carlos Beltran -- to correct a deviated septum. Niese's 2011 season was cut short Aug. 23 when he strained an intercostal muscle.
Niese lasted just two more batters after Freeman. Right fielder Lucas Duda, looking into a sunny, cloudless sky, dropped Matt Diaz's fly ball for a run-scoring error that made it 7-1, and Jason Heyward chased Niese with a two-run double. Pinch-hitter Jack Wilson added a sacrifice fly off Manny Acosta.
"This means everything," Collins said. "We've done a lot of talking in spring training about getting ready to compete, getting ready to prepare to compete. I told those guys in our first meeting: 'You're professional baseball players, and there are expectations in this town and in this clubhouse.'"
Mike Minor (0-1), who impressed the Braves by throwing 14 consecutive scoreless innings in his first four spring training starts, gave up six runs, six hits and four walks in five-plus innings.
Before a crowd of 27,855 on Easter Sunday, more than 14,000 short of capacity, sacrifice flies by David Wright in the first and Duda in the fourth built a lead. Murphy hit a two-run double in the fifth, and the Mets made it 7-0 in the sixth on Scott Hairston's RBI double against Cristhian Martinez and Tejada's two-run double.
McCann, who had been 0 for 10 in the series, homered in the eighth over the newly pulled-in fence in right, a ball that likely would have been a flyout in previous seasons at Citi Field.
"We're fine," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "Four or five of those hits together, and we'll be fine."
San Diego (6,846) is the only other big league team without a no-hitter. ... Niese pitched a one-hitter against San Diego on June 10, 2010, allowing Chris Denorfia's leadoff double in the third. ... The Mets also opened 3-0 while the Yankees went 0-3 in 1973, according to STATS. ... Wright has 728 RBIs, five short of Darryl Strawberry's club record. ... The highlight of the Mets' three-game series against Washington figures to be Wednesday's finale, with Johan Santana pitching against Stephen Strasburg. New York is selling $2.50 tickets for that game, to be played on the 50th anniversary of the Mets' debut.
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