June 20, 2015

Max Scherzer Has Perfect Game Through 8 2/3, But Hits Tabata: Washington Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer came within one strike of throwing a perfect game Saturday, but hit Jose Tabata on the elbow on a pitch Tabata leaned into. He then got Josh Harrison to fly out for a no-hitter. This follows a one-hitter on his last start, prompting an ESPN report to call this "perhaps the most dominant consecutive starts in the majors since Johnny Vander Meer pitched back-to-back no-hitters for Cincinnati in 1938." This was Scherzer's first no-hitter and the second in Nats history. He was drenched in chocolate syrup by teammates afterwards.

posted by rcade to baseball at 08:44 PM - 13 comments

Max Scherzer has a perfect game through 8.

posted by rcade at 06:14 PM on June 20

If you want to be perfect, you can't hit Tabata.

(Just trying to get out in front of the tabloids, who will have a hard time resisting the allure of that one, or some variant of it).

posted by beaverboard at 08:06 PM on June 20

Props to Beaverboard for the headline I promptly stole.

posted by rcade at 08:44 PM on June 20

Oh wow, that's genius, beaverboard!

And yeah, he totally leaned into that: on the initial normal speed view, I didn't even think it hit him; on slo-mo, he unquestionably bent down into the pitch, and that's bullshit. At least Scherzer still got the no-no, and he's not the first pitcher to lose a perfect game or no-no with one out or one strike (insert amazing story about a 9th inning two-out Carl Everett pinch-hit at-bat against a Mike Mussina no-no at Fenway on Sunday Night Baseball many years ago).

Still, I've thought this since people like Bonds (as much as I've been a staunch defender of him on this site) really started popularizing the wearing of battle armor. While I understand and support a hitter protecting vital body parts, I feel like the rule about not making a sincere effort to get out of the way should be enforced much more than it is, especially when batters are wearing protective gear. I'd love to see umpires call that a ball, as the rulebook states, enough times batters stop trying to milk the HBP.

Edit:
I was somewhat surprised to see this on an MLB.com article about the play:

For his part, Nationals manager Matt Williams noted that, regardless of his perception, the last thing he would have wanted to do was challenge the play -- it is reviewable -- and hence risk warping Scherzer's rhythm.

I didn't know that kind of play would be reviewable- seeing as it would in my mind qualify under the balls-and-strikes part of the game- but given that it apparently is, I'm not sure how I feel about Williams' decision. On the one hand, the review might have overturned the call and potentially preserved the perfect game; on the other hand, the 5 minutes wait time might have cost Scherzer the no-no altogether.

posted by hincandenza at 09:47 PM on June 20

..... the second in Nats history

Sixth in franchise history.

posted by tommytrump at 09:49 PM on June 20

I want to let grum get in on this with the details, but I'm a Dave Steib fan from way back, and I recall that he totally dominated on the mound in consecutive starts only to be cursed by fate. It may have even been more than 2 starts. It was landmark heavy shit. Grum will know.

posted by beaverboard at 11:43 PM on June 20

What's up with the chocolate sauce thing?

posted by rumple at 02:21 AM on June 21

*poof*

Dave Stieb threw back-to-back one-hitters on September 24, 1988 and September 30, 1988.

In both cases, the solitary hit came in the 9th inning with two out.

On the first one, the ball was hit directly at Manny Lee (2B), and as he reached down to field it, it hit the point where the (artificial) grass meets the dirt and skipped up and over Lee (who jumped to try and corral it, but couldn't reach it).
On the second one, a pinch-hitter lofted an inside-out excuse-me single down the right field line.

But Stieb wasn't done. The second game of the set was the last game of the regular season. In his second game of the following season (1989), Stieb lost ANOTHER no-hitter (actually, a perfect game) with two outs in the 9th inning.

So that's three no-hitters lost with two outs in the 9th inning, in just four games pitched.

(Side note: He also threw a one-hitter earlier in the 1988 season, and then another one-hitter later in the 1989 season. He finally got his no-hitter in the 1990 season.)

(Second side note: He was the best pitcher in the 1980s, not Jack Morris, and deserved a LOT more HOF votes than he got.)

*poof*

posted by grum@work at 02:39 AM on June 21

I really don't look at that play and think that Tabata meant to get hit. For one, he was lost at the plate against Scherzer and clearly not picking the ball up well. If you are, there's a split-second to react to a pitch and if you're not, it feels like less.

Second, it was a pitch tracking inside that was nowhere near the plate. Tabata moved a little down, not in. Scherzer was spotting the borders of the strike zone, which while an effective strategy, also means guys have a small viewing degree inside to deduce where a pitch is and where it's going.

And third, I don't think (neither did Scherzer in his post-game) that the impetus is on a hitter to cover up a pitcher's bad pitch so he has to lose the perfect game on a hit. I watch games with guys who think taking a walk late against a perfect game is unacceptable (particularly if ball four is a borderline strike), which is bullshit. A no-hitter is broken up by a hit, but a perfect game requires a pitcher to avoid the other ways it's broken up too.

The guy's job was to get on base and start a rally. Creating unwritten etiquette rules late in the game for how guys should break up perfect games just cheapens the whole thing.

posted by dfleming at 10:17 AM on June 21

It's the judgement of the umpire that determines whether a hit batsman is awarded a base or not. The general guidelines involve an attempt to avoid getting out of the way, the location of the pitch (in or out of the strike zone; in a place where the batter had no chance to move, such as the feet), swing or no swing. At the MLB level, the umpires are aware of a batter's ability to see the pitch in time to attempt avoidance. dfleming accurately states that possibility. In this case the hit batsman decision was likely correct.

What bothers me is the batters who do not try to get out of the way, or worse who try to make it look that way while actually making sure they get hit. This is not called often enough for what it is. The call should be a dead ball, pitch called a ball or strike as applicable, runners returned to their bases unless they had advanced a base prior to the pitch, and the batter kept in the batter's box. I don't want to say it is a lack of testicular development on the part of umpires, but I do feel they have become too comfortable in awarding the base when not justified.

posted by Howard_T at 12:31 PM on June 21

What's up with the chocolate sauce thing?

I don't believe that there is a particular reason behind the choice of chocolate syrup, but the Nats have been using it all season to dump on the guy being interviewed during the postgame who hit the walkoff or did some otherwise noteworthy thing. Just an update on hitting him with a shaving cream pie.

posted by bender at 11:10 AM on June 22

It'll be interesting to see if either Hershey's or Nestle's tries to create a good time branding opportunity with the Nats, the way that Reese's did with ET.

"The official major league choco syrup of the nation's capital."

If that doesn't work out, a canned spinach company could always do a deal with sailor man Matt Williams.

When DiMaggio was in the midst of his legendary hitting streak, the Heinz company (home of the "57 Varieties") was going to give him $10,000 when the streak reached the 57th game. So of course, the streak ended at 56 games. Instead of the dough, he got Marilyn Monroe.

posted by beaverboard at 11:37 AM on June 22

Actually, it seems that there is a particular reason for the chocolate syrup, via Max Scherzer earlier in the season.

"You know, what's your favorite ice cream topping?" Scherzer said. "Chocolate syrup. You know, it tops it all off. So, when you have a great win, and you have a walk-off win, let's top it off with the best topping there is, chocolate syrup. So, what are you gonna do about that? It's the best thing there is."

And as beaverboard speculated, Hershey's has jumped on the bandwagon and set the Nats up with syrup for the season.

posted by bender at 12:30 PM on June 22

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