SAN FRANCISCO — A 28-year-old journeyman pitcher who was designated for assignment twice by the Giants earlier this year came within one strike and a few inches from perhaps the most unlikely perfect game in baseball history Friday night.
Yusmeiro Petit, making just his third start for the Giants this season, recorded 26 straight outs and had a 3-2 count against Arizona Diamondbacks pinch-hitter Eric Chavez before Chavez lined a single to right field that just eluded the diving try of outfielder Hunter Pence.
Petit then retired A.J. Pollock on a grounder and settled for a one-hitter, his first major league complete game and shutout and needed just 95 pitches to throw the game of his life in a 3-0 Giants victory at AT&T Park.
It was the nearly the second perfect game for the Giants in two years, following Matt Cain’s 2012 gem. The remarkable part of that is that the forearm injury Cain suffered two weeks ago provided the opportunity for Petit to join the Giants’ rotation.
The Venezuelan right-hander didn’t walk a batter — he only went to two three-ball counts — and struck seven in what may go down as the most efficient games ever pitched by someone in a Giants uniform. Tim Lincecum threw a no-hitter earlier in the season but required 148 pitches.
A crowd of 41,180 was on its feet throughout the ninth as Petit struck out rookie Chris Owings for the first out, then retired Gerardo Parra on an easy grounder to second. The stadium was near bedlam when the count reached 3-2 against Chavez, who had a walk-off hit against the Giants last weekend in Arizona, but the former A’s standout got solid wood for the clean single, although Pence — who made a great catch to preserve Lincecum’s no-hitter — made a valiant try. He just couldn’t get this one.
After the game, Pence tweeted: “Ahhhh felt like the dream where you just can’t run fast enough!!! So close, great game Yas #clutch”
Petit told Comcast SportsNet Bay Area that he knew he had a shot at perfection after left fielder Juan Perez made a diving catch for the third out in the sixth inning.
As for the fateful pitch to Chavez, Petit told CSNBA through an interpreter, “When the count got to 3-2, I had to come through the zone, and that’s what happened.”
While Petit (3-0) missed his perfect game, he clearly has opened eyes with the Giants and has surely assured himself a strong look for the 2014 rotation.
There wasn’t even a threat of a hit through the first five innings against Petit. Arizona hit just two balls out of the infield (both easy fly outs to left field) and the right-hander required just 48 pitches (39 strikes) to record the first 15 outs.