It's taken exactly three days for the 2013 Major League Baseball season to nearly etch its place in history. Texas Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish came within one out of recording the 24th perfect game in league history in a 7-0 win over the Houston Astros Tuesday night.
With just one out separating Darvish from a perfect game, Astros shortstop Marwin Gonzalez stepped to the plate. Not regarded as much of a slugger, it seemed like Darvish was about to ascend to early-season stardom.
Gonzalez had other plans. With a ground-ball single up the middle, Gonzalez ended all chance of history and Darvish left the game after 8.2 innings of stellar work. Teammate Michael Kirkman came in to record the final out.
Darvish was absolutely dominant from his opening pitch. The 26-year-old right-hander fanned the first two Astros who took the plate en route to recording 14 strikeouts on the night. Darvish fanned those batters on only 111 pitches, throwing 78 strikes as he dared Houston's hitters to make good contact.
The Astros failed for 8.2 innings, and this performance bodes wonderfully for Darvish's 2013 season.
The Japanese import is expected by many to take a gigantic leap this year, his second season stateside. Gifted with a multitude of pitches at a variety of speeds and solid command, Darvish was considered a superstar in waiting.
He put all of those gifts to work on Tuesday. Mixing pitches and locations, Darvish fooled an Astros lineup that most consider below-average on their best night. Though he has to be disappointed with not finishing the job, Darvish should take solace in the fact that his achievement captured the nation's attention.
As always, Twitter was abuzz both during and after Darvish's historic performance. Here is a look at all the best thoughts and reactions from around the web.
Bleacher Report's Twitter feed had a great graphic showing just how close Darvish came to snagging Gonzalez's hit:
Behind the plate for Darvish's near-perfecto was the always-controversial A.J. Pierzynski. Sports Pickle theorized that Darvish may have had an ulterior motive for throwing the ball with such velocity:
Yu Darvish was this close to a perfect game twitter.com/BleacherReport…— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) April 3, 2013
Pierzynski also offered up a four-letter quote after Darvish gave up his hit, per ESPN's Buster Olney:
You realize the reason Yu Darvish is pitching so well is because he's trying to break A.J. Pierzynski's face with his fastball, right?— SportsPickle (@sportspickle) April 3, 2013
As Darvish's pitch count rose, there were some concerns out there about stretching him this far in his first start. But, as Grantland's Bill Simmons points out, the chance for history was too much to pass up:
Pierzynski: "----." Darvish with a big smile after he gives up the Gonzalez single. Looks like he's barely broken a sweat as he is taken out— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) April 3, 2013
It took a while, but it looks like CSN's Ray Ratto jinx after the sixth inning worked:
107 pitches thru 8. Stretching it to 120+ pitches in early-April makes me nervous as a Yu fantasy owner. But you gotta go for a perfect game— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) April 3, 2013
As one would expect for someone with Darvish's stuff, this isn't the first time the Rangers ace has pushed the limits of perfection. As ESPN Stats & Info points out, Darvish also brought a perfect game through five innings against the Royals last September:
Yu Darvish is perfect through sixsixsixsixsixsixsixsixsixsix. And there's your jinxjinxjinxjinxjinxjinxjinxjinxjinx.— Ray Ratto (@RattoCSN) April 3, 2013
Matt Sussman of Baseball Prospectus makes a very valid point about giving up hits in perfect-game bids:
This is 2nd time Yu Darvish has taken a perfect game through 5 innings. He also did so last September 3 against Royals (5 2/3 IP)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 3, 2013
Jim Rome needed exactly one good look at the Astros lineup to know this will probably be a long season in Houston:
Doesn't Yu Darvish know it's bad luck to give up a base hit during a perfect game— Matt Sussman (@suss2hyphens) April 3, 2013
Dave Tepper of TexasFootball.com has perhaps the most telling stat on the unbelievable night:
Gut-wrenching for Yu Darvish but is anyone really surprised the Astros were nearly perfect-gamed in the first week of the season?— Jim Rome (@jimrome) April 3, 2013
Danger Guerrero of Uproxx is not a fan of the multitude of obvious Yu Darvish puns going through his Twitter timeline:
Put another way: per Game Score, what Yu Darvish did tonight was the best non-complete game in baseball history.— Greg Tepper (@Tepper) April 3, 2013
There was some (very small) good that came of Darvish's lack of perfection. As ESPN's Darren Rovell notes, the enterprising soul responsible for putting up his ticket prior to the game's completion won't be fetching as much as he or she hoped:Darvish's performance was fantastic and captured every baseball fan's attention, but missed the mark by one mere grounder up the middle.
I wish Twitter had a negative Favorite option so I could go through my timeline and show all of you how much I hated your Yu Darvish puns.— Danger Guerrero (@DangerGuerrero) April 3, 2013