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MLB Nears 10 Years With out a Perfect Game


The San Francisco Giants were playing their very own game, just down the steps from the house clubhouse at Oracle Park, but Carlos Rodón and a few of his teammates stayed inside. Down the coast, Clayton Kershaw was working on an ideal game for the Los Angeles Dodgers. History was streaming through a laptop.

At the very least there was the potential of history, and that was enough to intrigue Rodón, who had come so near his own slice of it in 2021. Pitching for the Chicago White Sox against Cleveland that April, Rodón retired the primary 25 batters before his 0-2 slider nicked the highest of Roberto Pérez’s shoe.

That spoiled Rodón’s perfect game, but he was thrilled to accept a no-hitter, considered one of 317 in major league history. Yet only 23 of those have been perfect games, and as they watched Kershaw’s attempt July 15 against the Los Angeles Angels — which ended with an eighth-inning double — Rodón and his teammates realized they hadn’t seen one in a protracted time.

“So we went back, I feel on Baseball Reference or something, and we found that the longest streak was like 30 years, so it was sort of crazy,” Rodón said. “We were like, ‘We’re not even close.’ That is just like the third longest, only 10 years.”

This month makes it a decade because the Mariners’ Félix Hernández froze Tampa Bay’s Sean Rodríguez with a sinking changeup and pointed to the skies over Seattle on Aug. 15, 2012, celebrating the last perfect game within the majors. Greater than 22,000 games have been played since then, and in all of them, each teams have put at the very least one runner on base.

That is the longest stretch in baseball and not using a perfect game since 1968 (Catfish Hunter) to 1981 (Len Barker). As Rodón discovered, the longest stretch ever was 34 years, from 1922 (Charlie Robertson) to 1956 (Don Larsen, within the World Series).

When Hernández mastered the Rays, though, the right game had seemingly change into more common. Mark Buehrle had thrown one in 2009, followed by Dallas Braden and Roy Halladay in 2010 and Philip Humber and Matt Cain in 2012 before Hernández’s. There would have been one other, by Armando Galarraga in 2010, had replay existed to overturn a blown call by the umpire Jim Joyce on the potential last out.

In order that was six perfect games (plus Galarraga’s effort) in a little bit greater than three years — followed immediately by a decade of pure imperfection. What a sport.

“Am I surprised? Not likely,” said David Cone, who threw an ideal game for the Yankees in 1999. “I used to be more surprised when there have been more being thrown than I’m now. That surprised me greater than the 10-year gap.”

There has never been a combined perfect game, and to Cone, the chances of a one-pitcher perfecto would appear to be lower now, because starters rarely get the prospect to work nine innings. Yet there have been still seven complete-game no-hitters in 2021, and one other this season, by the Angels’ Reid Detmers on May 10.

Also, because a pitcher can face not more than 27 hitters in a nine-inning perfect game, pitch counts are likely to be lower. Just one perfect game (Cain’s) has a known pitch count of greater than 120, and most managers will let a pitcher keep going around that mark except in rare cases, like Kershaw’s seven-inning, 80-pitch attempt in his season debut this April, on a chilly day in Minnesota after ending last season with an injury.

Milwaukee’s Corbin Burnes threw eight no-hit innings in Cleveland last September, with 14 strikeouts and one walk. But he had reached 115 pitches, a season high, so Josh Hader finished the no-hitter within the ninth. Burnes insisted he was removed from perfect that night.

“I don’t think there’s ever been a no-hitter or perfect game where a man can look back and say, ‘I threw every pitch where I desired to and I absolutely dominated and so they didn’t have a likelihood,’” Burnes said. “I left cutters over the plate, hung a curveball, hung a changeup. For those who’re capable of disguise it enough and blend pitches, you’ll be able to get away with mistakes. But you’ve got to have guys in the appropriate place at the appropriate time.”

Burnes spoke last month on the All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium, where Sandy Koufax (1965) and Dennis Martinez (1991) had achieved perfection. Koufax is considered one of eight Hall of Famers to do it, but even a no-hitter has eluded among the greats, like Steve Carlton, Lefty Grove and Greg Maddux.

Houston’s Justin Verlander has nearly every superlative a pitcher could want: three no-hitters, two Cy Young Awards, a Most Precious Player Award, a World Series title. But he will not be chasing an ideal game to round out the résumé.

“I don’t think it’s something you’ll be able to aspire to do,” Verlander said. “It’s like no-hitters, a few of the most effective, like Roger Clemens, never had a no-hitter. It’s something that you would be able to’t say, ‘I need to perform that.’

“It’s really how I sort of deal with every part: Do I need to get to 300 wins? Sure. Do I need to get to 4,000 strikeouts? Sure. You name it, after all I need to try this, nevertheless it’s not a goal of mine. An ideal game will not be a goal, it’s something that just happens within the moment. It’s such an incredible thing, the celebrities need to align.”

Since Hernández’s gem, three pitchers have lined up 26 stars until the twenty seventh fizzled out. Yu Darvish and Yusmeiro Petit gave up singles with two outs within the ninth inning in 2013, and Max Scherzer hit the twenty seventh batter with a 2-2 backup slider in 2015. (Scherzer, then with Washington, ended up with the primary of his two no-hitters.)

Darvish and Scherzer have been perennial All-Stars, but Petit was mostly a reliever across 14 major league seasons with six teams. A few years ago, before a spring training practice with Oakland, he remembered his near miss intimately.

Petit was pitching for the Giants at home against the Arizona Diamondbacks, who used a veteran, Eric Chavez, to pinch-hit with two outs within the ninth. Chavez took the primary five pitches — a curveball, three fastballs and a changeup — and his patient approach unnerved Petit.

“Every thing was working together — my command, the hitters swinging early, the pitch count was low, it’s my night,” said Petit, 37, who was recently released from the San Diego Padres’ Class AAA team.

“The one thing is I don’t know why Eric Chavez didn’t swing at two pitches before. In that moment, I assumed, ‘Something’s incorrect here,’ because 25, 26 guys before him swing mechanically. I comprehend it’s a veteran guy, but he didn’t swing at two good pitches. For me, I said, ‘Wow, I even have to live or die here.’ I comprehend it was my last likelihood because I need to win every part, I need the right game, so I don’t wish to walk him. It was 3-2, and I need to throw my best pitch.”

Petit had thrown only 92 pitches. He tried to complete his masterpiece with a fastball, down and away, but Chavez pulled it on a line, just in front of the glove of the diving right fielder, Hunter Pence. Petit retired the subsequent hitter for the one shutout of his profession, and a 12 months later, mostly as a reliever, he set a serious league record by retiring 46 batters in a row.

In fact, because Petit did that over several weeks, the main leagues’ streak and not using a perfect game continued. And while strikeout rates have exploded in recent times — meaning fewer balls in play, and thus fewer probabilities for errors or fluke hits — the drought persists.

“Even when you might have plenty of strikeouts — like, 10, 11, 12 in a game is quite a bit — that also signifies that you might have about 15 outs in the sphere that must get hit right to a man,” said Atlanta’s Max Fried, who won the World Series clincher last fall but has never come near an ideal game.

“And also you’ve got to do it without walking or hitting anyone or having an error occur. So there’s plenty of things that need to go your way for that to sort of come to fruition. Greater than anything, it’s almost a team accomplishment.”

And there isn’t any advance warning for what team will do it. In 2012, Cain and the Giants won the World Series, but Hernández and the Mariners finished in last place. A century ago, Robertson’s perfect game got here for a White Sox team that went 77-77.

Likewise, perfect-game pitchers have had storybook careers (Koufax), otherwise disappointing careers (Humber) and abnormal careers (Barker). On the appropriate day, anybody could join the group.

“Kershaw could be an awesome guy for the club — a Hall of Famer, c’mon!” Cone said. “But then you definitely’ve got other guys who had that one big day, and the random variance comes into play. The further removed I get from it, the more I appreciate the bounce of the ball, the luck factor, whatever you ought to call it.

“I mean, it’s never going to be more common. There’s 23, out of tens of hundreds of games. Even in the event you had 25, 30, 35 — that’d be OK. It’s still unbelievable.”

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