In Pursuit of Perfection

Evan Glantz

There’s a special group of 23 players that have accomplished something no one else has in the 130-plus year history of Major League Baseball: pitched a perfect game. Each member of this group (none have repeated) has set down 27 straight opposing hitters without allowing a hit, issuing a walk, or letting a batter on base.

On Saturday, Washington Nationals pitcher, Max Scherzer, a Parkway Central High School graduate and former Mizzou Tiger, came within one batter of joining the prestigious club.

Through eight and two-thirds innings, the $210 million dollar man mowed down the Pittsburgh Pirates. Then the baseball gods threw Scherzer a curve (or in this case, a slider).

One out away from being a footnote in history, the Pirates sent Jose Tabata to the plate to pinch-hit for their pitcher. On a two-ball, two-strike count, Scherzer shook off his catcher twice, then let loose a slider. The ball ran in on Tabata who appeared to lean into the pitch. The ball glanced off his elbow guard and into the dirt.

Beth Shalom Cemetery ad

Hit by pitch. Scherzer’s game was perfect no more.

Now, the story does have a happy ending. Despite being “elbowed” out of baseball immortality, Scherzer refocused and got the next batter, Josh Harrison, to fly out to left field, securing quite possibly the most disappointing no-hitter in MLB history.

Instead of being the 24th player to pitch a perfect game, Scherzer had to “settle” for a slightly smaller feat – tossing the game’s 289th no-hitter. Certainly something he can hang his cap on.

In a weird way, this “imperfect game” might be more memorable than if Scherzer had set down 27 straight. It’s kind of like that itch you just can’t scratch. It was a brush with greatness. But perfection was just out of reach.

However, instead of focusing on what-could-have-been, the focus should instead be paid to Scherzer’s overall body of work. Prior to his near perfect game/”disappointing” no-no, the 2013 Cy Young Award winner tossed another complete game shutout against the Milwaukee Brewers. And he might have been even more dominating in that contest. Against the Brew Crew, Scherzer surrendered only one walk and one hit, while striking out 16.

For those of you keeping track, that means his last two games have produced the combined results: 18 innings pitched, one walk, one hit, 26 strikeouts and a 0.00 earned run average. Scherzer is the first pitcher since 1944 (and fifth all-time) to allow one hit or fewer in back-to-back starts.

His season line looks like something out of a video game (at least through three months): 102.1 innings pitched, 123 strikeouts against 14 walks, eight wins, along with a 1.80 ERA.

My purpose in pointing out these stats is that one fluky hit-by-pitch shouldn’t overshadow Scherzer’s incredible performance to date. Even as opposing fans (as I’m assuming many of you who read this are), we should appreciate the pitcher’s performance on the mound. And Scherzer’s local ties make him an easy player to root for.

In baseball, as in many other facets of our everyday lives, it’s easy to lose sight of the forest through the trees. Take time to acknowledge and appreciate greatness when you’re lucky enough to witness it.