The San Francisco Giants were playing their own game, just steps away from their home club at Oracle Park, but Carlos Rodon and some of his teammates stayed inside. On the coast, Clayton Kershaw worked on the perfect game for the Los Angeles Dodgers. The story was broadcast through a laptop.
At least it was possibility history, and this was enough to intrigue Rawdon, who came so close on your own piece of it in 2021. Playing for the Chicago White Sox against the Cleveland in April of that year, Rodon gave up the first 25 batters before his 0–2 slider nicked the top of Roberto Pérez’s shoes.
It ruined Rodon’s perfect game, but he was happy to settle for a no-hitter, one of 317 in major league history. However, only 23 of those were perfect games, and watching Kershaw’s July 15 game against the Los Angeles Angels that ended in a double in the eighth inning, Rawdon and his teammates realized they hadn’t seen this in a long time.
“So we went back to, I think, Baseball Reference or something, and we found that the longest streak was about 30 years, so it was kind of crazy,” Rawdon said. “We were like, ‘We’re not even close.’ It’s like the third longest, just 10 years.”
This month marks ten years since the Mariners’ Felix Hernandez froze Tampa Bay’s Sean Rodriguez with a sinking shift and pointed to the sky over Seattle on August 1st. December 15, 2012, dedicated to the last perfect game in the majors. Since then, more than 22,000 games have been played, and in all of them, both teams have fielded at least one runner.
This is the longest stretch in baseball without a perfect game from 1968 (Catfish Hunter) to 1981 (Len Barker). As Rawdon found, the longest period was 34 years, from 1922 (Charlie Robertson) to 1956 (Don Larsen in the World Series).
However, as Hernandez mastered the Rays, the perfect game seemed to become more common. Mark Buehrle threw one in 2009, followed by Dallas Braden and Roy Halladay in 2010 and Philip Humber and Matt Cain in 2012 before Hernandez. There would have been another one, Armando Galarraga in 2010 if there had been a replay to overturn referee Jim Joyce’s rash decision about a potential last out.
So, that was six perfect games (plus Galarraga’s efforts) in just over three years, immediately followed by a decade of pure imperfection. Which sport.
“Am I surprised? Not really,” said David Cone, who threw a perfect game for the Yankees in 1999. It surprised me more than a 10-year gap.
There has never been a combined perfect game, and according to Cone, the odds of a one-pitch perfect game now seem lower because starters rarely get a chance to pitch nine innings. However, there have been seven more full non-hitter games in 2021, with another this season from the Angels’ Reid Detmers on May 10.
Also, since a pitcher can face no more than 27 hitters in a perfect nine-inning game, pitching tends to be lower. In only one perfect game (Cain’s game) is the known number of pitches over 120, and most managers allow the pitcher to continue to beat that mark except in rare cases, such as Kershaw’s seven-inning, 80-inning attempt in his rookie season this past April. , on a cold day in Minnesota after an injury that ended last season.
Milwaukee’s Corbin Burns threw eight no-hitters in Cleveland last September, with 14 strikeouts and one walk. But he pitched 115, a season high, so Josh Hader finished ninth without a hitter. Burns insisted that he was far from perfect that night.
“I don’t think there’s ever been a no-hitter game or a perfect game where a guy can look back and say, ‘I threw every pitch where I wanted to and I absolutely dominated them and they didn’t stand a chance.'” Burns. said. “I left the cutters over the plate, hung the twisted ball, hung the shift. If you can mask it enough and blend the tone enough, you can avoid mistakes. But you have to have guys in the right place at the right time.”
Burns played last month at the All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium, where Sandy Koufax (1965) and Dennis Martinez (1991) came to perfection. Koufax is one of only eight Hall of Famers to do so, but even the no-hitter has eluded some great players like Steve Carlton, Lefty Grove and Greg Maddux.
Houston’s Justin Verlander has just about every superlative a pitcher could want: three no-hitters, two Cy Young awards, a MVP award, a World Series title. But he’s not chasing the perfect game to complete his resume.
“I don’t think that’s something to aim for,” Verlander said. “It’s like no-hitters, some of the best, like Roger Clemens, never had no-hitters. It’s that you can’t say, “I want to get it.”
“It’s really how I focus on everything: Do I want to win 300 wins? Acids. Do I want to get 4000 outs? Acids. You name it, of course I want to do it, but that’s not my goal. The perfect game is not a goal, it is what is happening at the moment. It’s such an incredible thing, the stars should align.”
After Hernandez’s gem, three pitchers lined up 26 stars until the 27th ended. Yu Darvish and Yusmeiro Petit gave up singles with two outs in the ninth inning in 2013, and Max Scherzer hit the 27th batter with a 2-2 spare slider in 2015. no attackers.)
Darvish and Scherzer were regular All-Stars, but Petit mostly played in 14 major league seasons with six teams. A couple of years ago, before spring training with Oakland, he reminisced about his imminent setback.
Petit played for the Giants at home against the Arizona Diamondbacks, who used veteran Eric Chavez to hit two strikeouts in the ninth game. Chavez took the first five innings—a curve ball, three fastballs, and a substitution—and his patient approach unnerved Petit.
“Everything worked together – my team, the early hits, the innings were low, this is my night,” said Petit, 37, who was recently released from the AAA San Diego Padres team.
“The only thing I don’t know is why Eric Chavez didn’t swing two innings earlier. At that moment, I thought, “Something is wrong here,” because 25, 26 guys in front of him were swinging automatically. I know he’s a veteran guy, but he didn’t have two good shots. As for me, I said: “Wow, I have to live or die here.” I know this was my last chance because I want to win everything, I want the perfect game so I don’t want to go with it. It was 3-2 and I want to show my best serve.”
Petit threw just 92 innings. He attempted to finish his masterpiece with a down and to the side fastball, but Chavez hit it down the line, just in front of the diving right fielder Hunter Pence’s glove. Petit fired the next hitter with the only shutout of his career, and a year later, mostly as a reliever, he set a major league record by hitting 46 consecutive batters.
Of course, because Petit did this for several weeks, the major league streak without a perfect game continued. And while strikeouts have skyrocketed in recent years, meaning fewer balls in play and therefore less chance of a mistake or a hit, the drought persists.
“Even if you have a lot of outs — like 10, 11, 12 in a game — that’s a lot — it still means you have about 15 outs on the field to hit the guy right in,” Max said from Atlanta. Fried, who won the World Series decider last fall but never came close to perfect.
“And you have to do it without walking, without hitting anyone or making mistakes. So there are a lot of things that have to go your way for this to come true. Moreover, it is almost a team achievement.”
And there is no prior warning about which team will do it. In 2012, Cain and the Giants won the World Series, but Hernandez and the Mariners finished last. A century ago, Robertson’s perfect game came against the White Sox, who won 77–77.
Similarly, pitchers with perfect play have had storybook careers (Kowfax), otherwise disappointing careers (Humber), and conventional careers (Barker). On the right day, anyone could join the group.
“Kershaw would be a great guy for the club – Hall of Famer, come on!” Kon said. “But then you have other guys who had that special day, and random variance comes into play. The further I get from that, the more I appreciate the bounce of the ball, the luck factor, whatever you want to call it.
“I mean it will never be more common. There are 23 of them out of tens of thousands of games. Even if you had 25, 30, 35, that would be fine. It’s still incredible.”