The San Francisco Giants were playing their home game on the steps of their home club at Oracle Park, but Carlos Rodon and some of his teammates stayed inside. On the beach, Clayton Kershaw was working on a perfect game for the Los Angeles Dodgers. History was passed through a laptop.
At least it was opportunity In the history of history, and this was enough to intrigue Rodon, who was so close to 2021. In the Chicago White Sox’s game against Cleveland that April, Rodon retired the first 25 batters before hitting his 0-2 slider. On top of Roberto Perez’s shoes.
It marred Rodon’s perfect game, but he was thrilled to settle for a no-hitter, one of 317 in major league history. But only 23 of those were perfect games, and when they watched Kershaw’s effort on July 15 against the Los Angeles Angels — which ended in his eighth double — Rodon and his teammates realized they hadn’t seen one in a long time.
“So we went back, I think with a baseball reference or something, and found out the longest streak was 30 years, so that was kind of crazy,” Rodon said. “We said that we are not even close. It is the third longest, only 10 years.”
This month marks a decade since Mariner Felix Hernandez froze Tampa Bay’s Sean Rodriguez with a sinker and pointed to the Seattle sky on Aug. 15, 2012, marking his last perfect game in the majors. Since then, more than 22,000 games have been played, and in all of them, both teams have put at least one runner on base.
It is the longest stretch without a perfect game in baseball from 1968 (Catfish Hunter) to 1981 (Len Barker). As Rodon found, the longest stretch was 34 years, from 1922 (Charlie Robertson) to 1956 (Don Larsen, in the World Series).
However, when Hernandez took over the Rays, the perfect game became seemingly more common. Mark Buehrle threw one in 2009, followed by Dallas Braden and Roy Halladay in 2010 and Phillip Humber and Matt Cain in 2012 before Hernandez. It would be Armando Galarraga’s second game in 2010 that there was a replay to overturn referee Jim Joyce’s emergency call on a potential final outing.
So that was six perfect games (plus Galarraga’s effort) in a little more than three years — followed immediately by a decade of pure imperfection. what a sport
“I am surprised? Not really,” said David Cone, who pitched a perfect game for the Yankees in 1999. That surprised me more than the 10-year gap.”
There’s never been a combined perfect game, and Cohn’s chances of a one-pitcher’s perfeso are lower now because starters rarely get a chance to go nine innings. Still, there were still seven complete games in 2021, and one more this season by the Angels’ Reed Detmers on May 10.
Also, because a pitcher can face no more than 27 batters in a nine-inning perfect game, the pitch count is lower. Only one complete game has a known pitch count of more than 120, and most managers allow a pitcher to continue that mark except in rare cases, such as Kershaw’s seven-inning 80-pitch effort in his season debut this April. , on a cold day in Minnesota after suffering an injury last season.
Milwaukee’s Corbin Burns threw eight scoreless innings with 14 strikeouts and one walk in Cleveland last September. But he hit a season-high 115 pitches, so Josh Hader ended the no-hitter in the 9th. Burns insisted that night was far from perfect.
“I don’t think there’s ever been a game where a guy can look back and say, ‘I threw every pitch I wanted to and I absolutely dominated and they didn’t have a chance,'” Burns said. “I left cutters at the plate, I hung a curveball, I hung up the change. If you can camouflage enough and mix up the pitch, you can get away with mistakes. But you have to have guys in the right place at the right time.”
Burns spoke at last month’s All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium, where Sandy Koufax (1965) and Dennis Martinez (1991) hit home runs. Koufax is one of eight Hall of Famers to do so, but even the no-hitter has eluded some greats like Steve Carlton, Lefty Grove and Greg Maddux.
Houston’s Justin Verlander has just about every accolade a pitcher could want: three no-hitters, two Cy Young Awards, an MVP award, a World Series title. But he’s not chasing a perfect game to round out his resume.
“I don’t think that’s something you can do,” Verlander said. “It’s like a no-hitter, some of the best, like Roger Clemens, never had a no-hitter. This is something you cannot say, “I want to achieve this.”
“That’s really how I focus on everything: Do I want to get to 300 wins? of course. Want to hit 4000 hits? of course. You name it, of course I want to do it, but that’s not my goal. A perfect game isn’t a goal, it’s something that just happens in the moment. It’s such an incredible thing, the stars have to align.”
Since Hernandez’s gem, three pitchers have had 26 stars before the 27th came out. Yu Darvish and Yusmeiro Petit gave up singles with two outs in the ninth inning in 2013, and Max Scherzer had a 27th at-bat with a 2-2 backup slider in 2015. (Scherzer, then with Washington, completed the first of his two. No shots.)
Darvish and Scherzer were perennial stars, but Petty was mostly a reliever in 14 major league seasons with six teams. A couple of years ago, before spring training with Oakland, he recalled his near miss in detail.
Petty struggled for the Giants at home against the Arizona Diamondbacks, who used veteran Eric Chavez to hit with two outs in the ninth. Chavez took the first five pitches — a curveball, three fastballs and a changeup — and his patient approach irritated Petty.
“Everything worked together — my command, the hitters moving early, the pitch count low, it’s my night,” said Petty, 37, who was recently released from the San Diego Padres’ Class AAA team.
“The only thing is, I don’t know why Eric Chavez didn’t swing at two pitches earlier. At that moment I thought, “Something’s wrong here,” because 25, 26 guys in front of him are automatically swinging. I know he’s a veteran guy, but he didn’t skate two good pitches. I said to myself: Wow, I have to live or die here. I know it was my last chance because I want to win everything, I want to play perfect, so I don’t want to walk him. It was 3-2 and I wanted to throw my best pitch.
Petty only threw 92 pitches. He tried to complete his masterpiece with a fastball, down and away, but Chavez lined it out, just in front of the glove of diving right fielder Hunter Pence. Petty retired the next batter for his only career shutout, and after a year as mostly a reliever, he set a major league record by retiring 46 consecutive batters.
Of course, because Petty did this for several weeks, the major league streak went on without a perfect game. And while the strikeout rate has increased in recent years — meaning there are fewer balls in play and therefore less chance for an error or accidental hit — the drought persists.
“Even if you have a lot of strikeouts — like 10, 11, 12 in a game is a lot — that still means you’ve got about 15 outs in the field that have to be hit by a straight guy,” Atlanta’s Max said. Fried, who hit the World Series clincher last fall, has never been close to a perfect game.
“And you have to do it without hitting yourself, hitting anyone, or making a mistake. So there are a lot of things that have to go your way to make it kind of work. More than anything, it’s almost a team effort.”
And there is no advance warning which team will do it. In 2012, Cain and the Giants won the World Series, but Hernandez and the Mariners finished in last place. A century ago, Robertson’s perfect game came in a 77-77 White Sox victory.
Likewise, perfect game pitchers have had storied careers (Koufax), otherwise disappointing careers (Humber) and ordinary careers (Barker). Anyone could join the group on the right day.
“Kershaw would be a great guy for the clubhouse – Hall of Famer, come on!” Connie said. “But then you have other guys who had that special day and the random variance is factored in as well. The further I get from it, the more I appreciate the bounce of the ball, the luck factor, whatever you want to call it.
“I mean, it’s never going to be more common. There are 23, out of tens of thousands of games. Even if you have 25, 30, 35 – that would be good. It’s still unbelievable.”