A Look Back at Last Year’s Perfect Game Throwers
A perfect game, by definition, occurs when a pitcher throws at least nine innings, gets a statistical victory, and does not allow a single batter to reach first base. There can be no walks, no hits, no runners reaching base by error. The pitcher must face, and retire, 27 consecutive batters.
In the 135-year history of Major League Baseball, the feat has been accomplished a mere 23 times. Remarkably, three of those perfect games were recorded during the 2012 season, and baseball continues to see an uptick in no-hitters since the game made over its performance enhancing drug testing policy.
Seeds All Day took a look back on 2012’s three perfect performances.
April 21, 2012 – Phil Humber – Chicago White Sox 4, Seattle Mariners – 0
Phil Humber was certainly the most surprising of the three to achieve perfection. Humber had only made 29 career starts coming into the April 21st contest against the Mariners, and had never gone deeper than 7 2/3 innings. Humber was drafted in 2004, but underwent Tommy Johns surgery and did not win his first big league game until 2010. Prior to facing Seattle, the journeyman right hander was best known as being one of the four prospects the New York Mets traded to to the Minnesota Twins to acquire then ace Johann Santana, but that certainly has changed now that he has a perfect game under his belt.
On this day, Humber was dominant. He recorded the 27 consecutive outs on just 96 pitches while striking out 9 Mariner batters. The key moment came on the last out of the game. Pinch hitter Brendan Ryan struck out on a check swing at a slider that was low and outside. The ball got away from White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, forcing a play at first base. Pierzynski chased the ball down and threw Ryan out at first, preserving the 21st perfect game in Major League history.
Here’s a look at the play. Fast forward to around the 2:45 mark.
June 13, 2012 – Matt Cain – Houston Astros 0, San Francisco Giants 10
Up until a season ago, Matt Cain had been playing second fiddle to Tim Lincecum on San Francisco’s pitching staff. But after his dominant 2012 performance – which included baseball’s 22nd perfect game – there’s no question that Cain is the lone ace of the Giant’s rotation.
Some have argued that Matt Cain’s perfect game stands as the best ever. He did do it in style. The right hander struck out a career high 14 hitters en route to the Giants’ rout of the Astros, which tied Sandy Koufax for the most strikeouts in a perfect game. But it still took a couple of tremendous defensive plays for the performance to remain perfect.
Right fielder Cabrera chased down this fly ball in the sixth inning, making a leaping catch at the wall.
Even more impressive was right fielder Gregor Blanco’s diving grab on the warning track in the seventh.
August 15, 2012 – Felix Hernandez – Tampa Bay Rays 0, Seattle Mariners 1
A week ago, Felix Hernandez signed a seven-year, $175 million contract extension that made him the highest paid player in baseball history. His August 15th performance against Tampa Bay might have been the showcase that convinced Seattle the right hander was worth those kinds of dollars.
Hernandez was in complete control all game, striking out 12 hitters and completing the game in 113 pitches. And unlike Cain, he did not need the help of spectacular catches to keep the Rays away from first base. Hernandez struck out five of the final six batters he faced, whiffing third baseman Sean Rodriguez to end the game and record the first perfect game in Mariners history.
Here is a montage of the final three outs.
Tomorrow Seeds All Day will take a look forward by trying to predict which pitcher is most likely to throw a perfect game in 2013.