On the 10th anniversary of MLB’s last perfect game, here are 10 games that should have, should have, could have been #24

On the 10th anniversary of MLB’s last perfect game, here are 10 games that should have, should have, could have been #24

Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Drew Rasmussen was so close to history Sunday afternoon. He was eight innings behind after recording outs on each of the 24 batters he faced. It was a perfect game with only three outs left. He was so efficient that he didn’t even reach 80 pitches.

And then Baltimore Orioles shortstop Jorge Mateo tapped a double down the left field line and that was it. (The Rays would go on to win 4-1.)

Perhaps coincidentally, Monday marks the 10th anniversary of the last perfect game in Major League Baseball. It was the Seattle Mariners’ Félix Hernández on August 15, 2012 who managed to go 27 up and 27 down against none other than the Rays. It was the 23rd perfect game in MLB history and a decade later it’s still 23.

The drought is actually not a big mystery. It’s incredibly difficult to throw a perfect game and that’s why this achievement is so celebrated. Rasmussen and countless others could confirm this.

There was once a drought of more than 13 years (1968-1981), but in 2010 we only had to wait three weeks between feats. The distance is nothing more than random coincidence, so any attempt to explain a drought is a mistake.

However, we can have some fun tracing some of the closest calls over the past decade. Here are the 10 other latest brushes featuring immortality between King Félix’s jewel and Rasmussen’s flirt. Work backwards from the latest…

Not that we need a reminder of the marathon nature of the MLB season, but we still have over seven weeks left in the same season that saw Kershaw’s perfect seven innings. It really seems like a long time ago, doesn’t it?

As a reminder, Kershaw made his debut in 2022, returning from an elbow injury that knocked him out for the 2021 playoffs. His outing was perfect, putting down all 21 batters he faced, but he was removed after seven innings and 80 pitches. Second batter, faced by reliever Alex Vesia in the eighth, singled to end things. But the Dodgers still beat the Twins 7-0.

It was a complicated situation that was discussed at length at the time.

do you remember this one It’s another good example of how difficult the perfect match is. Means faced 27 hitters and didn’t allow a hit or a walk. He never hit anyone with bad luck. His Orioles teammates made no mistakes. So what happened?

With an out bottom of the third inning, Means beat the Mariners’ Sam Haggerty, but Orioles catcher Pedro Severino was unable to contain Means’ wild pitch. Haggerty reached first base as a result. In the end, he was caught stealing, limiting Means’ outing to the minimum of 27 batters.

At least it didn’t happen too late, did it? With the perfecto out of the way, the only drama late in the inning was whether Means would finish the no-hitter, and he did by a score of 6-0.

3. Carlos Rodon, April 14, 2021

Rodón threw a no-hitter in that one and it’s a fine example of how difficult it is to be perfect across nine innings. With an out in ninth place, the White Sox starter barely hit the front edge of Cleveland batsman Roberto Pérez’s foot.

Rodón then retired the last two batters for the 8-0 win. That was it. He eliminated 27 of the 28 batters he faced, and that one miss pitch, on a 0-2 count, cost him the perfect game.

Leake had a remarkable career. He was the rare player to skip the minors and go straight to the majors after being drafted. He played in parts of 10 seasons and made 296 career starts. He won 105 games. It’s been a good career. He also only had one career shutout, starting in mid-July in his final MLB season for the Mariners. He’s had the best start of his career.

Leake recorded 24 outs from 24 batters he faced against the Angels that day, and yes, both Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani were in the lineup. He brought his perfect game into ninth place. An eyed grounder bled through the right side of the infield for Luis Rengifo to break out the perfect play and no-hitter. Leake then issued a walk to Kevan Smith before getting three outs to end his 10-0 one-hitter.

5. Rays staff, July 14, 2019

I put aside my general disdain for celebrating combined jobs as if they equal individual efforts here. Official Rules say that combined perfect games count, so let’s talk about the Rays’ effort in 2019.

Ryne Stanek opened things up with two perfect innings before handing the keys to Ryan Yarbrough, the Rays’ assigned “length” guy for the day. Yarbrough himself was perfect for the next six innings. It was a perfect game until the ninth! Hanser Alberto of the Orioles kicked things off with a single to right to break it up. The Rays would pitch four total and win 4-1.

6. Jorge Lopez, September 8, 2018

López is best known these days for being the All-Star closer to the wildcard contenders Orioles traded just before the deadline. But back in September 2018, he auditioned for a long-term starter role in the big league with the Royals. It didn’t stick. In fact, prior to this season, López had a 6.03 ERA in his MLB career.

He saw fame as a starter in that outing as he flirted with baseball’s immortality. López went 24 for 24 in the Twins’ sitting through eight innings. He guided Max Kepler to ninth seed and then coughed a single to Robbie Grossman to end the no-hit bid before being removed in the Royals’ 4-1 win.

7. Rich Hill, August 23, 2017

Aside from Kershaw’s perfection — he said he’s not upset about being removed from the game — and of course the Rays’ tag team effort, it could be argued that everyone else on this list got a punch in the pit of their stomach respective excursions. And of all, this one feels like the greatest, although matters are subjective.

Hill worked his way through 24 Pirates hitters in the first eight innings without reaching a base. Jordy Mercer led ninth place for the Pirates with a routine groundout. However, Dodgers third baseman Logan Forsythe misplayed it and the perfect game was over.

To add even more, Hill came through the ninth without conceding a hit, but the visiting Dodgers hadn’t scored either. Hill went back for the 10th and immediately gave up a walk-off homer to Josh Harrison on his 99th pitch of the contest. Difficult right?

This all-time great has flirted with no-hitters and perfect plays multiple times. For example, he has 22 outings with at least eight innings and three or fewer hits allowed. He threw two no-hitters. So it’s no surprise to see him on this list. On his last game of the 2015 season, he threw a no-hitter and became the only baserunner to have a penalty in the sixth inning.

This was his second no-no and second time with perfection this year. On June 20, Scherzer retired the first 26 Pirate batters he faced. In fact, the Nationals pitcher was just a shot away when that happened on Scherzer’s 2-2 offer to José Tabata…

Age. Come on. Throwing your armored elbow into the ball to complete a perfect game? weak stuff.

Scherzer pulled the next batter back to preserve the no-hitter and the Nats’ 6-0 win. He has never thrown a perfect game.

The longtime swingman and longtime helper has racked up more than a few starts in his career. In this case he took his chance. It was one of two full games in his career and his only shutout.

Like almost everyone else here, Petit picked up a perfect play in ninth place after going 24-24. He was spotted with a three-run lead, clearing the coast for the perfect play. He would get a strikeout and a groundout before having to deal with veteran Eric Chávez as a pinch hitter for Diamondbacks starter Patrick Corbin. (No helpers were used in this game, a real throwback game.)

Petit would get two strikes before Chávez finished it off with a line drive single on a full count. Giants right fielder Hunter Pence was brave, but it was a real single. Petit would get a groundout on the next hitter. So close.

In the first start of his second season in the United States, Darvish conquered the mound for the Rangers in Houston against a rebuilt Astros team that had lost 107 games the previous year and would lose 111 in 2013. Darvish dominated, batting 14 while retiring the first 26 batters he faced. He was just one step away from a perfect game.

do you remember this one Marwin Gonzalez sent one back right through the wickets. If Darvish had reacted just a fraction of a second faster, he would have completed the perfect game.

It should not be. Darvish has two full career games and one shutout. He had never come this close to a no-hitter, and he was only inches away from perfection.