Flirting with Perfection, Not in a Good Way

There are not many things that make a baseball fan’s heart race quite like a perfect game. I remember as though it were yesterday the events of May 18, 2004 when Randy Johnson took the mound for the Arizona Diamondbacks and threw the 17th and last perfect game in baseball. Each pitch seemed to build upon the last one as Johnson completely baffled the Atlanta Braves hitters. It started with the Braves shortstop Jesse Garcia and ended 27 hitters later when Johnson retired pinch hitter Eddie Perez. Catcher Robby Hammock had the pleasure of seeing each and every pitch and when the final out was recorded he rushed to the mound to celebrate with the Big Unit. It was a sight that was second only to scoring the winning run in the 2001 World Series in Diamondbacks history. I remember turning to my wife as we watched the game and saying how I would love to see a perfect game in person sometime in my life. Little did I realize what I was saying.

The final game of the Pittsburgh Pirates series would see a match-up between Randy Johnson for the Arizona Diamondbacks and rookie Jeff Karstens. Johnson was on a mini-roll having won his previous 4 starts and looking like the Randy of old getting batters out with his fastball and slider. The Pirates Starter Jeff Karstens was recently traded to Pittsburgh from the New York Yankees as part of the Xavier Nady deal. Since coming to the Pirates he had won his only start against the Chicago Cubs.

Historically Arizona Diamondbacks hitters have struggled against rookie pitchers. I am not talking about just this season, it has been this way for as long as the Diamondbacks have been in existence. On June 27, 1999 St. Louis Cardinals rookie Jose Jimenez tossed the first no-hitter in Diamondbacks history stifling a team that would win 100 games that season. On September 6, 2006 Marlins rookie Anibal Sanchez in just his 14th game threw a no-hitter against Arizona again making a fairly potent offense look silly. It gets to the point where I cringe when I look at the probable starters and see the Diamondbacks facing a rookie pitcher.

Recently the Diamondbacks had been hitting very well and in fact had taken the first two games of this series. I think everyone expected that with Randy Johnson on the mound and the bats being alive that this game was going to be a laugher. Well the laugh was on the Diamondbacks this game. Karstens began retiring Diamondbacks faster than a new move-in social at Sun City. Having lived through the first two no-hitters against the Diamondbacks I thought I knew what it felt like when the team could not get a single hit. That’s the interesting thing about this game though, it didn’t feel like a potential no-hitter let alone a perfect game.

Diamondbacks hitters were getting good wood on the ball and there were several balls that went to the deepest part of the field making you think that they were going for extra bases. Every time though Pirates outfielders got to the ball retiring the Diamondbacks batters. You just came away believing that the Diamondbacks were one pitch away from taking Karstens deep for a lead and ultimately a win. Instead the outs continued to pile up as the game went deeper and deeper. It was not as though Randy Johnson was throwing a bad game either. He was pitching a gem himself allowing only 7 hits in his 7 1/3 innings pitched. He walked no one and struck out 7. With an outing like that you just expected to win but as he left the game Johnson he was on the hook for the loss.

After retiring the first two batters he faced in the 8th inning Jeff Karstens watched Diamondbacks outfielder Chris Young line a ball to the gap in left center that would go to the wall erasing the no-hitter and the perfect game. Young would be left standed on base keeping the shutout intact. Stephen Drew would get a hit in the ninth but he too would be left on base. Those two hits were the only ones allowed the whole game. It was frustrating to watch from a Diamondbacks perspective. Throughout the whole game all I could think about was that wish I made four years earlier. I’ve changed my mind, I am not sure I ever want to see a perfect game in person, it is just too stressful.

1 Comment

  1. A Webb of Deception

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