Holy. Crap. That’s all I can say right now. Much like 1917, 2010 started with a lot of no-hitters and slowed down as the season wore on, with the final regular season no-hitter being thrown in July–I joked in the end of August that we were running out of time to fit one in for the month.
By the way, I’m just now learning that MLBlogs employs censorship…and that they aren’t exactly restricting it to actual curse words. My only guess for what the starred-out word in that entry is would be “w.h.o.p.p.i.n.g”, which means “really big” and is…oh, wait, I think I understand, the first syllable is phonetically identical to an antiquated slur against some sort of ethnicity, I’m not even sure what because it’s so outdated, though the spelling is different if I’m not mistaken–no “h”.
Which, of course, brings us back to the point of our post, which is no “H”, as in the abbreviation for “hits”, as in what the Cincinnati Reds were lacking in Game 1 of the NLDS. That’s six official ones on the year, which combined with Armando Galarraga’s imperfect game would make the seven needed to tie 1991’s modern record. And the author of this latest no-hitter? No “one-hit wonder”, pardon the pun. Harry Leroy Halladay III, in his postseason debut, pitched just the second postseason no-hitter in playoff history and his second no-hitter this year, becoming the first pitcher to pull off this feat since the immortal Nolan Ryan back in 1973. (If I heard correctly, the TBS announcers forgot about Ryan, incorrectly attributing Virgil Trucks’ 1952 double as the most recent instance. The only other two besides Halladay, Ryan, and Trucks were Allie Reynolds in 1951 and, of course, Johnny Vander Meer in back-to-back starts in 1938). Also, ESPN Stats Bureau notes that Don Larsen’s World Series perfect game was in the 53rd World Series to be played, and this year’s World Series will be the 106th–as in, the 53rd postseason since Larsen’s perfecto, the only other postseason no-hitter.
The presence of Nolan Ryan in the previous paragraph also provides for a convenient segue to the other topic of note, which is his Texas Rangers. They, like the Reds, made their 21st century postseason debut today, and they picked up a win, 5-1, over the Tampa Bay Rays. Previously, the Rangers had gone to the playoffs just 3 times, in 1996, 1998, and 1999, losing to the Yankees in the ALDS each time. The 2-run second inning that started the scoring was the first multi-run postseason inning the Rangers had had since Game 4 of the 1996 Division Series (in which they led 4-0 but lost 6-4 to lose the series three games to one); in fact, it equaled their entire scoring output for the 1998 and 1999 American League Division Series combined, as they got swept both years, getting shut out in Games 1 and 3 and scoring just one run in Game 2 both times. Um…yeah, I guess the Yankees’ pitchers were that dominant back then. The Rangers have historically been a high-scoring ballclub, so for them to be held to just one run in a three-game series two years in a row is really something. Congrats on the big win, boys.
Does that sound weird? Well, yeah, it does. I’m not really sure if I agree with the theory behind “game score”. The metric is simple enough: Base score of 50, add 1 point for each out recorded, 1 more for each strikeout, and 2 for each inning completed starting with the 5th. (This in itself seems a bit cheap, since starters should be able to get through 5, even 6 innings–probably more.) Subtract four points for each earned run allowed, two for each unearned run, two for each hit, and one for each walk. As such, a nine-inning perfect game (or other no-hit, no-walk shutout) would be 87 points plus the number of strikeouts. This means that a low-strikeout no-hitter will usually only be in the 90s, or the 80s if there are a lot of walks (Edwin Jackson’s game score in his no-hitter was only 85, due to having 8 walks and only 6 strikeouts). Brandon Morrow, though he failed to get the no-hitter, had 17 strikeouts while only allowing 1 hit and two walks. That’s good for a final game score of 100, tied for fourth-best in a nine-inning game in the live-ball era, behind only Kerry Wood (1 hit, no walks, 20 strikeouts in 1998–game score 105), Sandy Koufax (14 strikeouts, perfect game in 1965–game score 101), and Nolan Ryan (16 strikeouts, 2 walks, no-hitter in 1991–game score 101). The last one to crack triple digits? Randy Johnson in 2004, when he struck out 13 in his perfect game. A quick look at the Kerry Wood game–only 7 outs not made by strikeouts and only one hit, no walks–shows that the maximum possible in a nine-inning game would seem to be 114. (Actually, it’s more like 141, since as many as three batters can reach on a third-strike passed ball/wild pitch in each inning without any runs scoring. However, this would take at least 162 pitches, and that’s with each strikeout requiring the minimum three pitches. In other words, don’t count on it.) That Morrow came that close to “perfection” without actually getting the no-hitter seems weird…or does it? Certainly, it was a better-pitched game than Edwin Jackson’s no-hitter, or even possibly Dallas Braden’s perfect game. (However, it could be argued that it wasn’t even the best-pitched “1-hitter” of the year–Armando Galarraga’s imperfect game required just
83 88 pitches, a model of efficiency.) On another note, what’s the highest game score ever recorded? Harvey Haddix’s “Best game ever pitched” had a game score of 107 (1 hit, 1 walk, 1 unearned run, 8 strikeouts, 12.2 IP). Has anyone else gone higher? (Probably–pitchers used to complete games no matter how long they were, and each extra inning adds 5 more to the game score–three for the outs and two for the inning completion. A 16-inning complete game–which has happened–would have a baseline of 122 before adding strikeouts and subtracting hits/walks/runs)
Ken Griffey Jr. picked the wrong night to retire. On any other night, his retirement would be a huge story, but it got overshadowed by the drama in Detroit. Give Jim Joyce credit, however–he handled himself gracefully, admitted that he messed up when he saw the replay, and didn’t throw anyone out of the game (I was really thinking that Miguel Cabrera was going to get ejected after the botched play with the way he was jawing at Joyce.) Credit Armando Galarraga as well–he didn’t get angry once, even though he had a perfect game stolen from him. It’s unfortunate what happened, but it’s also a shining example of good sportsmanship on all fronts. Joyce is behind the plate for this afternoon’s Tigers-Indians game, although he was offered the chance to take the game off, and Galarraga came out to give him the lineup card. Wouldn’t you know it, the first out of the game was a close play at first.
Also, about that close play…my first instinct, even before seeing the safe call, was “oh no, I think he (Galarraga) missed the bag!” They’re considering overturning the call and awarding him the perfect game, but I can’t help but wonder if, failing an intervention by Commissioner Selig, the official scorer might not be willing to reclassify the play as an E-1, resulting in a non-perfect no-hitter. I really think it would be justifiable.
On a more positive (?) note, Joycegate or Perfectgate or whatever they’re going to call this may be the impetus needed to get the use of instant replay in Major League Baseball expanded. This morning on SportsCenter, a call for this was made by someone who knows from bad calls first-hand–Don Denkinger, the infamous first-base umpire in Game 6 of the 1985 World Series, whose blown call leading off the bottom of the ninth sparked a two-run rally as the Royals came back to win the game and the Series in 7 games. Joyce, who has been umpiring since 1989 and was named the second-best umpire in MLB in Sports Illustrated polls in 2003 and 2006, worked with Denkinger. Joyce was…well, his postgame speech was as profane as an Ozzie Guillen tirade, but it was all self-loathing, and he admitted his mistake. He knew as soon as he saw the replay that he blew it. Finally, when he went to apologize to Galarraga personally, Galarraga replied, without a hint of irony, “Nobody’s perfect.” That was perfect.
UPDATE: WABC’s Warner Wolf brought up another point regarding the play. Umpires are trained to watch for the foot and listen for the ball. In addition to the overwhelming crowd noise at what appeared to be the 27th out of a perfect game, Galarraga snowconed it. If Joyce was doing his job right, he’d have never actually seen the glove–and thus, would have had reason to believe that Donald beat the ball, especially since Galarraga supposedly adjusted the ball after making the play. If Joyce looked up and saw Galarraga adjust the ball and mistook it for the ball just arriving, it’s only natural that he’d make the wrong call. This is why instant replay is needed.
Even with two perfect games in the same calendar month, I never thought I’d get to see the record for least time between perfect games–5 days, between the first and second, back in 1880–broken. And so far, I haven’t. But I should have.
At first, I thought Armando Galarraga missed the bag, but upon seeing the replays, I’m pretty sure he got there, and did so before Jason Donald did. One out away, one measly out…it’s only been four days since Halladay’s perfect game. It would’ve been a new record… Not to mention, three perfect games in one season. Another new record. Damnit…