Luis Severino loses no-hit bid in eighth as Mets fall 3-1 to Cubs

When Luis Severino signed a one-year contract with the Mets to show baseball that he still had plenty left in the tank, few thought what happened Monday night at Citi Field would be possible.

Severino, the Yankee-turned-Met, no-hit the Chicago Cubs through seven innings before surrendering a hit to Dansby Swanson in the eighth. The Mets eventually lost 3-1 in the series-opener after Christopher Morel hit a go-ahead two-run homer off closer Edwin Diaz (0-1) in the top of the ninth.

But that shouldn’t diminish the brilliance of Severino.

The 30-year-old Dominican right-hander was once one of the city’s great aces and after coming six outs shy of one of baseball’s toughest feats, it’s safe to say he belongs in that category once again.

“I think it just shows that he’s capable of what everybody thought he was,” said outfielder Brandon Nimmo. “He’s really pitching well and you can see that confidence [in] him.”

Swanson’s hit came on an 0-2 sinker. Severino had thrown him two sinkers out of the zone that looked like they were dead on over the middle and fooled the shortstop, getting him to swing and miss twice. The third sinker was up and in where he wanted, but Swanson got a hold of it.

It was a good pitch to a good hitter.

“He just got it,” Severino said. “[Catcher Tomas Nido] and I were on the same page all night. He called great pitches and he called that pitch in… It was a great pitch. Credit to him.”

Pitching against his former Yankees teammate, right-hander Jameson Taillon, the Mets couldn’t give Severino offense, though for a while, it looked like one run was all he needed. Taillon allowed only one earned run (a solo homer by Brandon Nimmo) on four hits over 7 1/3 innings, walking one and striking out one.

Severino, who has been fantastic for the Mets (14-14) through the first month of the season, was just as good as Taillon, holding the Cubs (18-11) to one earned run on one hit, walking two and striking out five in eight solid innings. His fastball was electric and his command was sharp.

Even when his outing went wrong, it went right.

Severino hit another former teammate in the Bronx, Mike Tauchman, to lead off the sixth. Tauchman made it to second, advancing on a grounder to first base by Happ, but he was doubled off second base, with Jeff McNeil making a tough catch on a shallow liner by Morel. It finished off a 10-pitch inning for Severino.

That’s when it started to feel real.

“Everything was just lining up,” Nimmo said. “Right around the end of the sixth inning is kind of when I was excited for him.”

Said Diaz of the atmosphere in the bullpen: “We were just quiet.”

In the eighth inning, the magic disappeared.

Michael Busch led off with a walk and Swanson singled to center, just over the head of shortstop Francisco Lindor. The crowd gave Severino an ovation as pitching coach Jeremy Hefner walked to the mound to talk to him.

By the time Swanson’s hit dropped he had already shifted gears and was thinking about getting a win instead of finishing off a no-hitter. Still. Hefner wanted him to take a beat as the crowd cheered for him.

“He just came out so I could get a little breather,” Severino said. “He told me about the hitter that was coming, you know, to remind me of you know what pitches we’re throwing here.”

With two on and none out, Matt Mervis reached on a fielder’s choice, putting runners on the corners with one out.

Pinch-hitter Nick Madrigal sent a grounder to Joey Wendle, who was inserted at the start of the inning as a defensive replacement for Mark Vientos, at third base. Instead of throwing home, Wendle instead went to second to try to turn a double play. The speedy Madrigal beat the tag at first and Busch was safe at home, tying the game at 1-1. The Mets only got one out.

Wendle took full responsibility for the decision.

“Well, initially I thought that the ball was hit a little bit harder than it was. By that point I had already set my feet and kind of committed to trying to turn a double play. If you hesitate there and try to do something else, that doesn’t work,” Wendle said. “Obviously, looking at the replay, we had an opportunity to get him at home, but I also had an opportunity to end the inning. It was a decision I made and unfortunately, it was the wrong one.”

Nimmo led off the bottom of the first with his third home run of the season, taking Taillon nearly 400 feet deep. He nearly hit another in the bottom of the eighth, taking right-hander Mark Leiter Jr. (1-1) to the wall, but Happ made the catch for the out.

Hector Neris got out of a jam in the ninth to record the save (four).