Ranking Yu Darvish and the Most Heartbreaking Lost Perfect Games Ever
Tuesday night, Texas Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish was on the verge of perfection with two outs in the ninth inning before giving up a hit.
Darvish threw an absolute masterpiece in dispatching 26 Houston Astros hitters in a row at Minute Maid Park. He was just minutes away from putting his name in the record books.
Now, he joins a select few in other, less glorified ways.
Here is a ranking of the greatest near-miss perfect games ever thrown in MLB history.
Honorable Mention: Mike Mussina, May 30, 1997
He breezed through the first 25 batters. Then Indians catcher Sandy Alomar Jr. stepped to the plate with one out in the ninth inning and broke up the perfect effort with a sharp single.
Mussina struck out the final two batters to complete the one-hit shutout.
Honorable Mention: Harvey Haddix, May 26, 1959
The Braves finally got to Haddix in the bottom of the 13th with an error, sacrifice bunt, walk and game-winning double.
But Haddix can still claim one of the greatest games ever pitched, with 12 innings of perfect ball.
Honorable Mention: Pedro Martinez, June 3, 1995
On June 3, 1995, a young Pedro Martinez was on the cusp of greatness.
Martinez was starting to establish himself as one of the great young pitchers of the game with the Montreal Expos. He also achieved perfection on that night.
Martinez set down 27 straight San Diego Padres hitters. But the Expos were unable to score themselves, sending the game into extra innings.
In the top of the 10th, the Expos finally pushed across a run, leaving it up to Martinez to finish off the Padres in the bottom of the inning.
Martinez faced the first Padres batter—Bip Roberts—who promptly doubled, ending the perfect game.
It also ended Martinez's night. He was replaced by Mel Rojas, who retired the final three Padres hitters to complete the combined one-hit shutout.
8. Brian Holman: April 20, 1990
Seattle Mariners pitcher Brian Holman won 37 games during the course of his career, yet none of them were quite as exciting as the one notched on April 20, 1990.
Holman was spot-on against the Oakland A's that day, retiring the first 26 batters he faced.
With two outs, Holman toed the rubber to face Ken Phelps. Phelps took a Holman offering and deposited it into the right field seats for a home run.
Holman retired the next batter for the very disappointing one-hit win.
7. Billy Pierce: June 27, 1958
Chicago White Sox pitcher Billy Pierce came pretty close to perfection on June 27, 1958, coming literally within inches of being the first left-hander to throw a perfect game in 78 years.
Facing the hapless Washington Senators, Pierce dominated, striking out nine batters and breezing through the rest of the lineup without a baserunner.
Pierce got the first two outs in the ninth inning quickly and set up to face pinch-hitter Ed Fitz Gerald. Fitz Gerald ended Pierce's bid with a double to right field, the ball landing mere inches inside the first-base line.
Pierce struck out Albie Pearson to end the game for a one-hit shutout.
6. Milt Wilcox: April 15, 1983
In 1983, Detroit Tigers pitcher Milt Wilcox was in the prime of his career.
On April 15, Wilcox faced the White Sox on a chilly evening in Chicago and was on fire. He retired the first 26 batters in a row and prepared to face pinch-hitter Jerry Hairston to put the finishing touches on a perfect game.
The Detroit Tigers hadn't had a no-hitter in 25 years.
Alas, it was not to be, as Hairston hit a sharp single to center field. Wilcox retired Rudy Law for the one-hit shutout.
5. Milt Pappas: Sept. 2, 1972
Milt Pappas is the only pitcher ever to have a perfect game foiled by a walk.
On Sept. 2, 1972, Pappas, pitching for the Chicago Cubs, retired 26 straight San Diego Padres hitters. With Larry Stahl pinch-hitting for pitcher Al Severinsen, Pappas ran the count to 2-2.
Unfortunately for Pappas, umpire Bruce Froemming called the next two pitches balls, issuing a walk to Stahl and ending Pappas' perfect bid.
To this day Pappas fumes about the call.
4. Mike Mussina: Sept. 2, 2001
Four years after he nearly reached perfection with the Baltimore Orioles, it appeared that Mike Mussina would avenge that massive disappointment.
Mussina had a 1-2 count when he threw a pitch that Everett blooped into left field for a base hit.
Mussina was foiled once again.
3. Yu Darvish: April 2, 2013
Yu Darvish was absolutely dominant Tuesday night against the Houston Astros.
In his first start of the year, Darvish was never better. In fact, he struck out 14 Astros hitters and worked through two outs in the ninth inning without allowing a baserunner.
Facing shortstop Marwin Gonzalez, Darvish unleashed his first pitch that Gonzalez slapped right back up to the box. The ball eluded the glove of a diving Elvis Andrus into center field for a base hit.
Darvish was immediately replaced by reliever Mike Kirkman, who allowed another hit before retiring the final batter for the two-hit shutout.
All Darvish could do was smile.
2. Dave Stieb: Aug. 4, 1989
Without question, Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Dave Stieb is the king of near-misses.
In 1985, Stieb brought a no-hitter into the ninth inning only to give up back-to-back home runs.
In 1988, Stieb was robbed of no-hitters in consecutive starts, and on both occasions, he had two outs and two strikes on the final hitter of the game.
On Aug. 4, 1989, Stieb outdid all three of his prior no-hit efforts. He was on the verge of a perfect game.
Facing the New York Yankees, Stieb was the down to the final batter after retiring the first 26 Yankees hitters in order. With center fielder Roberto Kelly up to bat, Stieb quickly got behind in the count with two straight balls. Needing to throw a strike, Stieb grooved a pitch that Kelly lined into the left-field corner for a double.
Second baseman Steve Sax followed with a single to right field to score Kelly. Stieb got the next batter to ground out. Not only did he lose the perfect game, but the shutout as well.
Stieb would finally break through the following year, throwing a no-hitter against the Cleveland Indians on Sept. 2.
1. Armando Galarraga: June 2, 2010
To this day, it cuts to the bone just to watch once again the robbery committed against Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga.
On June 2, 2010, Galarraga was on the verge of perfection against the Cleveland Indians.
Facing Jason Donald with two outs in the ninth inning, Galarraga delivered a pitch that Donald hit weakly between first and second base.
What happened next is likely well-known to even the most casual of baseball fans.
Umpire Jim Joyce still feels bad to this day for blowing the call, but it doesn't undo the injustice suffered by Galarraga on that fateful night.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.
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