NEW YORK — Brandon Nimmo moved slowly at first, sizing up Jean Segura’s line drive as it tailed away from him in center field. He took about a dozen steps, accelerating once he gauged the ball’s flight path. With the last of them, he planted his right leg and extended his body horizontally, picking the ball out of the air about a foot or two from the Citi Field turf.
At the time, it was a fine play — certainly notable, but not unlike many Nimmo has made in his career. By the end of Friday night’s 3-0 Mets win over the Phillies, it had become the most significant defensive highlight of the second no-hitter in franchise history.
“I didn’t really notice until the sixth inning,” Nimmo said. “I looked back to check the count and the score and where I should play, and I saw the zero next to their team. I was like, ‘Oh, all right, we’ve got one going. We’re laying out for everything from now on.’”
Not that Nimmo needed prodding; such catches have become something of a specialty for him. The most difficult aspect of Segura’s shot off Tylor Megill was its velocity, coming off the bat at 104.5 mph. That gave Nimmo only around three seconds to put himself in position to rob Segura of a hit.
It was, however, the exact type of ball that Nimmo has been training to catch for the better part of two seasons. Last year, aware of the metrics that painted him as a mediocre center fielder, Nimmo began positioning himself deeper in the outfield. The idea was that the new starting point would allow him to have a better chance on balls over his head, while using his natural speed to catch up to balls in front of him.
Segura’s shot was the latter variety. As soon as it left the infielder’s bat, Nimmo was confident he would catch it.
“It’s been like that all year long for me,” Segura said. “I feel like today, approach-wise at the plate, was one of the best days I’ve had during the season. Not because I didn’t get any hits, just the way I was barreling pitches.”
On this night, none of the Phillies’ best swings turned into hits — not against Megill, Drew Smith, Joely Rodríguez, Seth Lugo or Edwin Díaz, the five pitchers who combined on New York’s no-hitter. And yet had Nimmo not made his play in the third inning, none of the drama at Citi Field would have mounted. None of those names would have become part of history.
“Nimmo’s a great outfielder,” Megill said. “He makes great reads, and he plays hard. Obviously, when I see him dive and come in and make a play, I’m ecstatic.”