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Recalled on Aug. 23 to replace an injured Matt Cain, who pitched the 22nd perfect game in Major League Baseball history on June 13, 2012, Yusmeiro Petit fell one out short of becoming the 24th pitcher to throw a perfect game in the San Francisco Giants 3-0 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday night.
All that stood between Petit and perfection was 35-year-old veteran Eric Chavez. The count went full — though Petit's 2-2 pitch was close enough that it drew a reaction from each of the 41,180 in attendance at AT&T Park. That only added to the drama and anxiety. And then Chavez calmly flipped a ball into short right field that was just out of the reach of a diving Hunter Pence. Honestly, the play was very much reminiscent of Pence's great catch to preserve Tim Lincecum's no-hitter on July 13, but there's a little more ground to cover at AT&T Park than Petco Park and Pence just couldn't quite get there.
Petit was that close, literally inches from perfection. Instead, he becomes the 12th pitcher to lose a perfect game with two outs in the ninth inning. The most recent? Yu Darvish on April 2 against the Houston Astros, so at least Petit's keeping good company on that short list.
A 28-year-old right-hander from Zulia, Venezuela, Petit was appearing in only his 76th game — 40th start — over his six year career. Friday night represented his fourth start for the Giants this season. He had been impressive in his first three starts, allowing no more than two runs in each outing. But he was on another level against Arizona. Dominant would be one word to describe Petit‘s performance, but what truly made it work was his efficiency. The Giants had yet to allow Petit to surpass the 100 pitch mark or go past six innings coming in. On Friday, he needed only 95 pitches to set 28 up and knock 27 down.
Not bad for a guy with a 12-20 record and a 5.37 career ERA coming in.
It was an unexpected masterpiece, but a masterpiece nonetheless. From start to finish, Petit had the D-Backs off balance and swinging with hope, not confidence. But even with that level of performance, a little help defensively is necessary. Petit was the beneficiary of two spectacular plays in his remarkable outing. The first came just three batters into the game when National League MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt ripped a grounder deep into the hole at shortstop. Joaquin Arias, playing in place of gold glove contender Brandon Crawford, made the remarkable back-handed stab and the long throw across for the out.
Then with two men out in the sixth inning, the opposing pitcher, left-handed hitting Patrick Corbin, flared a ball into short left field that had base hit written all over it. But just like Pence did for Lincecum in July, an outfielder would save the day. Only on this occasion, it was defensive replacement Juan Perez, who was playing in only his 19th career game.
Another tidbit worth mentioning in Petit's near historic outing, he never went to the windup, which is the usual starting setup for pitchers when there are no runners on base. Petit threw exclusively from the stretch the entire game, and short of one hiccup, it couldn't have worked out any better.