When the Giants exiled Tim Lincecum to the bullpen, they gave Yusmeiro Petit another shot at starting, and in his first turn on Thursday the 29-year-old righty did nothing less than set a major league record. In setting down the first eight hitters he faced against the Rockies in a 4-1 win, Petit ran his streak to 46 consecutive batters retired, one more than Mark Buehrle managed in 2009.
Whereas Buehrle's string included his perfect game against the Rays — sandwiched by the final out of his previous start and then the first 17 hitters of his next outing — Petit entered Thursday’s start having retired 38 straight hitters across seven appearances dating back to July 22, the last six of which came in relief. Oddly enough, his streak ended at the hands of opposing pitcher Jordan Lyles, who hit a double just after Petit had whiffed Charlie Culberson to break the record. Here’s the whiff:
Though promising enough as a youngster that he cracked Baseball America's Top 100 Prospects list in 2005 and 2006, Petit is far removed from those days. Homer-prone and reliant more on deception than velocity, he's a journeyman who has enjoyed only intermittent success in parts of seven major league seasons with the Marlins, Diamondbacks and Giants, putting up a 4.84 ERA and accumulating all of 1.2 WAR in 362 1/3 innings prior to Thursday.
Still, Petit has shown himself capable of befuddling hitters for reasonable stretches of time. Last year, he delivered a 3.56 ERA in 48 innings across seven starts and one relief appearance for the Giants, highlighted by his coming within one out of a perfect game against the Diamondbacks on September 6 before an Eric Chavez single broke the spell. This year, he's put up a 1.84 ERA in 49 innings coming out of the bullpen, though he had been roughed up to the tune of a 6.32 ERA in six starts totaling 31 1/3 innings prior to Thursday.
"Hidden perfect games" aren't all that uncommon. Last year, Boston's Koji Uehara retired 37 batters in a row across 11 games in August and September, and earlier that summer, the Dodgers' Kenley Jansen had gone 27-for-27 across eight games in July and August. Baseball Prospectus' Keith Woolner named the phenomenon back in 2004 and identified 61 such games by all pitchers from 1972-2003. At that time, Giants starter Jim Barr held the record with 41 straight retired in two August 1972 starts; his record stood for 27 years until Buerhle broke it. More recently, Beyond the Box Score's Chris Teeter unearthed 16 such occasions when relievers reached the 27-batter mark, some of which overlapped with Woolner's list.
Via MLB.com, here's the leaderboard:
||July 26-Aug. 28, 2014
||July 18-28, 2009
||July 17-Aug. 20, 2007
||Aug. 23-29, 1972
||Sept. 16-21, 1988
||May 13-23, 2004
||May 12-23, 1998
||May 21-26, 1959