Yes, that Yusmeiro Petit. The same guy who was dropped from the San Francisco Giants 40-man roster this season … twice! He ended up with his first complete game, a one-hit shutout. Only 12 times has a pitcher come within one out of a perfect game (I feel like it happened to Dave Steib at least a half-dozen times), and Eric Chavez took Petit to a 3-2 count before lacing line drive to right. Hunter Pence, who hit his 19th home run in the bottom of the eighth inning, came about two feet short of making a Gregor Blanco-esque diving catch.
But the Giants couldn’t really complain about that after the diving catch from Juan Perez in the sixth inning (a few minutes after entering the game as a defensive replacement for Brett Pill) as well as a nice backhanded play by Joaquin Arias.
We’re all tempted to bring up Greg Maddux’s name whenever a pitcher displays otherworldly command, but Petit looked the part on an unseasonably warm night in San Francisco. His outing took 53 fewer pitches to complete than Tim Lincecum’s no-hitter. The game lasted two hours and 12 minutes, very Maddux-esque. With the Giants playing games that don’t matter in the standings, the quick tempo of tonight’s contest and, let’s face it, the relative anonymity possessed by the guy on the mound, this was a perfect game bid that kind of snuck up on everyone besides the few who started tweeting snide comments about “jinxing” Petit from the fourth inning on.
Petit pitched brilliantly tonight, but the entire sequence surrounding Chavez’s at-bat was most impressive. Chavez went ahead 2-0, and Petit threw two fastballs at the knees (or maybe a little below) to even things up. Then Petit threw a curveball that just missed before allowing the full-count single. It looked like Petit knew it was a hit once it left Chavez’s bat, and he reacted the way anyone would after the ball hit the ground.
Yet, instead of mourning the loss of what will almost certainly be his only chance at a no-hitter, or an even rarer achievement, he calmly retired A.J. Pollock on a grounder to Arias and reacted with absolutely no disappointment, entitlement or petulance.
A great moment, in a season where those have become rare over the last few months. I really want to believe I’d react the same way if I was in Petit’s shoes. Most of us would like to, but human nature and perspective don’t mix all that well. So good for Petit for looking like a man who was genuinely pleased. He definitely should be, because it was still a masterful performance and he’s putting himself in a position to compete for a rotation spot next season. Petit’s late-season ascendance means more than an out-of-nowhere perfecto to Petit’s career, but coming that close to perfection has to feel very strange.
— Right after the ball bounced in front of Pence:
Gregor Blanco: “I would’ve caught that standing up.”
Matt Cain: “Don’t smile. Don’t smile. Don’t smile …”
Roger Kieschnick: “Great, I didn’t blink with Petit on the mound for five straight innings and it was all for nothing. I need a different superstition.”
— When I arrived in Scottsdale back in March, Petit was competing with Chad Gaudin for the same job. Petit was making a pretty good case, too. Two outings, five scoreless innings, two hits and no walks allowed. Then Petit gave up eight earned runs in 1.2 IP against the Royals on March 9, and his chances of making the club were eviscerated. I never thought I’d see Petit pitch for the Giants again, let alone do what he did tonight.
— Petit’s numbers since July 3 (10 starts — 7 with the Grizzlies, 3 with the Giants): 73.1 IP, 2.21 ERA, 73 K, 6 BB
— Pence, who even hustles during his home run trot (and went 3-for-3 to raise his average to .287), didn’t take long to apologize to Petit for coming up just short on an impossible play.