ATLANTA - The high bouncer rolled into no man's land. Lucas Duda gave chase from first base. Matt Harvey followed suit from the pitcher's mound. Both knew exactly what was at stake.
They knew that until that moment in the seventh inning Tuesday none of the Braves had collected a hit. They knew that to keep the no-hitter alive one of them had to make this play.
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Neither could, and perhaps, it's the reason that Harvey fell short of history in the Mets' 4-3 win over the Braves. For the third time this season, the Mets' rising ace took a no-hitter deep into a game, this one undone by a meek hit by Jason Heyward.
"It was hit in the perfect spot," said Harvey, who was charged with three runs in seven-plus innings while racking up a career-high 13 strikeouts.
The final hop of Heyward's grounder took a funny bounce, checking up on the grass, forcing Harvey to slightly shift his momentum. It was enough to keep Harvey from continuing to first base, where he might have tagged Heyward.
Left with no other choice, Harvey tossed the ball to the bag, left unoccupied by Duda.
"That was 100 percent my fault," said Duda, who apologized to Harvey after the game. "I take full responsibility. I should have read it better and it should have been an out."
Harvey (6-1), who earned his first win since May 17, took no-hit bids deep against the White Sox and Twins, though he might have been more dominant against the Braves, who spent the afternoon piling up awkward swings.
"I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't get more than one," manager Terry Collins raved. "There's going to be a night where he's going to attack early and get some easy outs maybe and look up deep in the game."
Harvey admitted he ran out of gas, derailed perhaps by a combination of heat, humidity and the loss of his no-hit bid. He left with the bases loaded in the eighth and the bullpen allowed the Braves to draw within one run after trailing 4-0.
But Bobby Parnell (10th save) whiffed Chris Johnson with the bases loaded to end the threat.
Harvey insisted that prospect Zack Wheeler's pending debut -- in Game 2 Tuesday night -- had no bearing on his performance. But he offered plenty of evidence to the contrary.
From the time he began throwing his warm-up pitches in the bullpen, Harvey sensed extra velocity in his fastball. And once the game began, he knew quickly that he could spike his curveball or throw it for strikes, a sign that his mechanics were clicking. "There's certain days you wake up and feel good and you can let it go," he said. "Today was one of those days."
Despite the heat and humidity at Turner Field, Harvey lit up the radar gun, even as he waded deeper into the game.
Harvey threw a 100-mph fastball to strike out Jason Heyward in the first inning, yet another sign that something special could be brewing.
"That's why the first two or three innings was just pumping the heater because if he's going to feel that good, and no one's going to hit it," catcher John Buck said, "you might as well keep running with it."
From behind the plate, Buck noticed hitters sitting dead-red on fastballs, and still struggling to catch up. He recalled one of them, after missing a hittable pitch, conceding defeat before digging back into the batter's box. "Well, I guess my at-bat's over," the batter told Buck.
And so it went for the 24-year-old phenom, who left his teammates and coaches wondering what could have been, and what might come next.
Said Harvey: "It was definitely one of those games where I definitely thought it was possible a little bit more than other ones."