Washington Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer tossed a no-hitter on Saturday against the Pittsburgh Pirates. An incredible feat for the Nats ace for sure, but Scherzer came oh-so close to joining an even more exclusive club.
Only 23 men have twirled a perfect game—27 up and 27 down—in MLB history. For Scherzer it was a case of 26 up and 26 down—one plunked—and then one more down.
With two outs in the ninth, Scherzer pitched a strike away from a perfect game. That’s when he hit Jose Tabata on the elbow with a pitch. A shocked crowd watched as the Bucs batsman trotted down to first. He’d be the only base runner of the game for Pittsburgh. Scherzer kept his cool and completed the gem by retiring Josh Harrison on a deep fly to left.
A no-hitter! But kind of a weird one.
While Scherzer did not join the perfecto fraternity, he actually entered a smaller group with just two other members. In all the years of Major League Baseball, 13 pitchers, including Scherzer, have lost a perfect game with one out to go. Only three men went on to salvage the no-no.
Scherzer joins Milt Pappas and George Wiltse in the Big Three, if you will. In 1972, Pappas, while pitching for the Chicago Cubs, issued a two-out walk in the ninth after retiring 26 straight. Pappas got the next batter, however, and secured the no-hitter over the San Diego Padres. Back in 1908, Wiltse, a New York Giants hurler, pulled a Scherzer—hitting the 27th batter—and, like Scherzer, he retired the next hitter. But, unlike Scherzer, he had to retire three more batters, which he did to clinch a 10-inning no-hitter over the Philadelphia Phillies.
Though no film exists of the Wiltse game, it is believed that Scherzer is the only one of the trio to enjoy a chocolate-syrup bath after the contest.
If you’re a baseball nut, you love this stuff. So, Scherzer missed the prefect game but he certainly put himself in unique company in the process. We can argue for years about whether Tabata pulled a Roger Dorn but one thing’s for sure, Scherzer is now a part of baseball history in a very great yet odd way.
The three almost-perfectos-turned-no-nos all came against teams whose nicknames start with the letter “P.” Ironic, since all three men just missed out on that magical baseball P-word by the slightest of margins. But, like Pappas and Wiltse before him, Scherzer deserves all the credit in the world for maintaining his composure and finishing off arguably the most perfect no-hitter that wasn’t, well, perfect.