It has been a desultory season for the San Francisco Giants. The reigning world champions entered Friday night’s game against the Diamondbacks in last place in the NL West, at 62-78, and were in desperate need of any cause for celebration.
They very nearly got it, and from the unlikeliest of sources: the 28-year-old Venezuelan journeyman, and former Diamondback, Yusmeiro Petit. Making just his third start of the season, and his fourth since 2009, Petit came within one strike – and, ultimately, perhaps one foot – of throwing the 24th perfect game in MLB history, and the second in Giants’ history after Matt Cain’s in June 2012.
After Petit retired the first 26 batters he faced in order, pinch hitter Eric Chavez worked a full-count against him with two outs in the top of the ninth. Petit’s offering to Chavez was a good one, an 89-mph fastball down and away, but Chavez reached out and pulled it on a line to right field, where it landed just below the glove of the sliding Hunter Pence (above, via Huffington Post).
Petit grasped his hands together and screamed toward the heavens.
Petit became the sixth pitcher in the last quarter-century to have a perfect game broken up with two outs in the ninth inning, and the second this season, after it happened to Yu Darvish in his first start of the year. In some ways, Petit’s outing – which ended up an efficient, 95-pitch one-hitter after he induced the batter after Chavez, A.J. Pollock, into grounding out – was even more remarkable than Darvish’s. For one thing, while Darvish’s came against the Astros, Petit’s was against the Diamondbacks, who had recently concluded an August in which they were the National League’s second highest-scoring club.
For another, while Darvish is the ace of the first-place Rangers and the major league strikeout leader, Petit was pitching for Oaxaca of the Mexican League as recently as 2011. In his six-year major league career, before Friday, he was 12-20, with an ERA of 5.37, and had never before thrown a complete game. After a 2012 season in which everything went right for the Giants, the opposite has happened in 2013, including, you might argue, Petit’s near miss. Still, after Pollock’s groundout clinched a 3-0 win, the 41,190 fans (paid attendance numbers) in San Francisco’s AT&T Park gave Petit a standing ovation. Perhaps there was something to celebrate after all.