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Orange Friday, September 6, 2013

September 8, 2013

It has been a disappointing season for the San Francisco Giants.  The team may very well end the season last in the West Division and with one of the worst records Pappas 2ever the year after winning the World Series.  Even though the team has lost their winning ways, this great game gives Giants fans plenty to enjoy.  For example, our Brandons – Crawford and Belt – are developing into very fine everyday players.  Buster Posey continues to look like a future Hall-of Famer, Sergio Romo and Javier Lopez have dominated out of the bullpen and there have been some days that Giants fans would have voted Hunter Pence mayor of the city for his hustle, fielding and hitting.  And even though it’s been nearly two seasons since Tim Lincecum has been the ace of the staff and there have been times when there was nothing comparable to those glory days, he has turned in some very nice games, including July 13, when he pulled it all together and pitched a no-hitter in San Diego.

Friday was one of the finest moments all season.  Yusmeiro Petit, who has been in and out of the major leagues the past seven years, took the mound.  Petit has struggled from the start of his MLB career, when he was drafted by the New York Mets.  Prior to this year, he won ten games and lost twenty.  He’s been prone to the long ball, had problems controlling his pitches and simply has not delivered on the potential that scouts once spoke about.  Petit has had his share of disappointment this season also.  He’s been sent down to Fresno twice, the last time in early August, so he was not able to join the team on their visit to the White House.  He didn’t pitch particularly well with the minor league team.  Still, given the various troubles with the Giants pitching staff this year, Petit was recalled to San Francisco late last month and added to the starting rotation.  He immediately made the most of his opportunity and delivered two very strong outings, which contributed to two of only few Giants wins the past couple weeks.   He followed up Friday with possibly the best game of his baseball career.  In fact, it was one of the best pitching performances in all of MLB this year.

Petit pitched a one-hitter, an accomplishment by any measure.  It is simply not easy to keep major league hitters off the base paths.  Hall of Famers Nolan Ryan and Bob Feller each threw twelve one-hitters in their careers.  They both pitched no-hitters also.  Ryan threw seven, the first when he was twenty-six years old and the last eighteen years later, when he was still throwing a baseball more than ninety miles an hour.  Bob Feller, another hard thrower, pitched a no-hitter for the Cleveland Indians before he joined the US Navy for four years during World War II and then two more after he returned.

Since 1961, there have been two hundred and eighty-six games with a pitcher that entered the ninth inning with a no-hitter, including fifty-three perfect games – no hits and no walks either.  This is what we had Friday – Petit was had pitched excellently and kept Arizona Diamondbacks in full check.  No hits and no walks.  He was very efficient, requiring only eighty-one pitches through eight innings and throwing first-pitch strikes to nineteen of the twenty-four batters that he faced.The entire Giants team and a full house of baseball fans were fully behind Petit.  Starting in the fourth inning, all baseball superstitions kicked into high gear.  Nobody talked to Petit and everyone kept their distance in the dugout.  His teammates moved up to the front to lean against the rail that borders the field and left the bench for him alone.  He sat there isolated without verbal or even eye contact from the other players.  Hunter Pence said after the game that they all understood what was at stake and that they were not “going to mess with that [the superstitions].”  Rookie Roger Kieschnick sat in the same place for six innings straight.  He was not going to test such things by going to the clubhouse for a badly needed bathroom break or even moving to another seat in the dugout.   Bruce Bochy started putting the team’s best fielders in the game in the sixth inning to defend the no-hitter and it paid off right away, when on the first pitch Juan Perez made a diving catch in left field to prevent a single.  In the ninth inning, the skipper made other changes to shore up the defense.

Petit pitched the ninth inning just as excellently as he worked the first eight.  He struck out rookie Chris Owings on three pitches and then three pitches later, Gerardo Parra grounded to second baseman Marco Scutaro, who just to make sure nothing went wrong, went down to one knee to field the ball.  With the pitcher due up next, veteran Eric Chavez came off the bench to pinch hit.  Chavez quickly went out ahead with a 2-0 count, but Petit battled back with two fastballs called strikes.  On the fifth pitch, Petit threw a beautiful 78-mile-an-hour curve ball that just missed the inside corner and remarkably, Chavez laid off to work the count to 3-2.  For sure, it showed a veteran’s discipline to let that one pass.

Milt Pappas was involved in a trade in 1965 from the Baltimore Orioles to the Cincinnati Reds for Hall of Famer Frank Robinson. In September 1972, with the Chicago Cubs, Pappas pitched 8 and 2/3 perfect innings and then walked the next batter. He finished the game with a no-hitter.

In September 1972, Milt Pappas pitched 8 and 2/3 perfect innings and then walked the next batter. He finished the game with a no-hitter.

This was only the second time in the game that Petit had reached a three-ball count in the game.  And so here we were.  With a perfect game on the line and a full count, Petit had nowhere to go.  On the next pitch he went back with a fastball to the same spot of the two called strikes.  This time, Chavez swung and hit a sinking line drive to right field that everyone watched as if it were in slow motion.  Hunter Pence, who never leaves anything on the field, raced towards it with all he had and it was a race between him and the ball.  He dove forward and his outstretched glove was beat by less than a foot.  Pence said that it was like a dream “where you can’t run fast enough.”  The perfect game was lost.  There was a collective groan all across the yard.  Petit retired the next batter on two pitches and would have to settle for a one-hitter.

Petit joined seven of the fifty-three pitchers who since 1961 entered the ninth inning with a perfect game and then lost the no-hitter with two outs.  We were all pulling for him to join the list of eighteen who made it all the way through nine innings, including among others, teammate Matt Cain, who pitched his gem last season, Hall of Famers Sandy Koufax and Catfish Hunter and others on their way to Cooperstown, Roy Halladay, Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson.  Bochy said that, “…it breaks your heart a little bit.”

Petit said that he was full of gratitude and that even though he lost the no-hitter, he felt the same as if he had because this was the first time he has pitched a complete game in the big league.  He was brought up from the minor league as a fill-in and will once again have to battle to earn a spot on a big league roster in 2014.   He said that he would very much like to stay with the Giants, who he says are “honest people.”  His outing on Friday put an exclamation point on his most recent run in the major league and makes it likely that the team will invite him back next year.

From → Baseball

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