There have been 296 no-hitters in major league history and 23 perfect games. Every single one of those events marks a special moment in baseball's annals. Yet Rich Hill's one-hitter on Wednesday might be as singular as all of those games; perhaps it will even immortalize him in a way a mere no-hitter couldn't have.
If an enterprising screenwriter were to craft a "Rudy" inspired tale of Hill's baseball journey, the last out of a perfect game would have been the climax, with the denouement simply being a freeze-shot of Hill being mobbed by Austin Barnes and Adrian Gonzalez, or perhaps with Yasiel Puig planting a kiss on his cheek.
But alas, that Hollywood ending was spoiled by Pittsburgh's Josh Harrison lofting a leadoff home run in the 10th, the first walk-off homer in baseball history to break up a no-hitter. It was a heartbreaking loss for Hill, even if he wants to act all casual about it.
You don't get much more subjective than trying to assess heartbreak. The very nature of sports is that heartbreak to one person is ecstasy to another. It's zero sum, with a winner and a loser. It felt like a crushing moment to me when Harrison's ball cleared the left-field wall at PNC Park, just beyond the reach of Dodgers left fielder Curtis Granderson. I'm not a fan of either team, but I'm a fan of Hill -- one of baseball's nicest people and a walking testament to the concept of perseverance.
But the Pirates fans I spied in the stands didn't seem too broken up about the end result.
It's never easy to slot a fresh event into historical context but, at the same time, such occasions also make for a perfect time to make the attempt. After all, what's the point of making history if you never go back and revisit history? With that in mind, here's a (very subjective) short list of the most heartbreaking near no-hitters in baseball history.
This one stings the most for a few reasons. Mostly it's because if 2017 rules had been in place in 2010, it would have been a perfect game. There were two outs in the ninth when Cleveland's Jason Donald hit a slow roller to second. Detroit's Carlos Guillen charged and threw to Galarraga, who stepped on first just ahead of Donald's arrival to the bag. The Tigers started to erupt in celebrations but ... first base umpire Jim Joyce called him safe.
Oy. It hurt to even type the words. That turned out to be the only complete game of Galarraga's career, and it created an inappropriate lasting image of Joyce, a fine umpire who simply made a mistake.
The most famous near-miss in baseball history. Haddix went 12 2/3 perfect innings before an error, a sacrifice and an intentional walk to Hank Aaron preceded Joe Adcock's winning double. According to Paul Dickson's "Baseball's Greatest Quotations" after the game Haddix told reporters, "All I know is we lost the game. What's so historic about that? Didn't anyone ever lose a 13-inning shutout before?"
Ballplayers never change.
You almost hate to include this one, but it happened in the World Series, which is a pretty big deal. Bevens no-hit the Dodgers for 8 2/3 innings but walked 10 batters. Brooklyn scored a run earlier, so even if Bevens had finished it off, it wouldn't have been a shutout. Instead, Cookie Lavagetto touched him up for a game-ending, two-run double to give the Dodgers a 3-2 win.
There have been quite a few no-hitters lost in either extra innings or with two outs in the ninth, but this one merits extra attention because of its context. Stieb had a perfect game going with two outs in the ninth but gave up a double to Roberto Kelly and an RBI single to Steve Sax before finishing off the win. But what made this such a gut-punch was that the previous September, Stieb had lost no-hitters in consecutive starts. Thankfully, this example has a happy ending, as Stieb finally got his no-hitter against Cleveland on Sept. 2, 1990.
Absent the context, this one would be a tie with Pedro Martinez, then with the Montreal Expos, who lost a perfect game on June 3, 1995 when San Diego's Bip Roberts led off the 10th with a double. Even though Martinez had thrown only 96 pitches, Felipe Alou pulled him and Mel Rojas came on to get the save.
Hill's heartbreaker should stand the test of time. His perfect game was spoiled by an error. His no-hitter was lost in extra innings. His journey to be in that position -- he didn't start a game in the big leagues for 2,239 days between 2009 and 2015 -- is simply amazing. And he didn't just lose a no-no; Hill was the first to lose a no-hit bid on a walk-off homer.
But perhaps Hill will get the last laugh the way Haddix did. That is, one year after losing his perfect game bid, Haddix helped the Pirates to the 1960 World Series title, their first in 35 years. Hill is in perfect position to help the Dodgers snap a 29-year title drought of their own.
Hosmer gets his first walk-off homer. If anything, the Kansas City Royals are an amazingly resilient team. The Royals overcame a late 4-2 deficit to knock off the Colorado Rockies 6-4 on Eric Hosmer's game-ending homer to right off old buddy Greg Holland.
— Kansas City Royals (@Royals) August 24, 2017
It was the first walk-off longball of Hosmer's career and moves Kansas City closer to the Minnesota Twins and Los Angeles Angels in the American League wild-card race. Hosmer is on pace to hit .319/.383/.503 this season with a career-high 27 homers, 95 RBIs and 101 runs scored.
That's a pretty nice platform year for a free-agent-to-be, yet every time I try to figure out what the market will be for him, I have a hard time figuring which team might be willing to throw a huge contract to a first baseman.
As for Holland, after a terrific start to his comeback season -- one year after sitting out because of Tommy John surgery -- he's having a tough go. He has blown three of his past four save chances, and has given up 12 runs in five innings (21.60 ERA) over his past six outings. He gave up only seven runs over his first 41 outings with Colorado.
Britton streak over. Baltimore's Zach Britton blew his first save chance since Sept. 20, 2015, a streak of 60 straight saves that established an American League record. The Orioles won 8-7 in extra innings against Oakland, though, a big win for a team barely hanging in the AL wild-card race. Manny Machado continued his tear with a game-ending homer.
— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) August 24, 2017
Hoskins homers again. The Philadelphia Phillies haven't earned much national attention this season, but that could change sometime in the near future as their young group of hitters continues to find their collective way at the big league level.
Rhys ⚡️ strikes again. pic.twitter.com/MigRiM5AMs
— Phillies (@Phillies) August 24, 2017
According to ESPN Stats & Information, Hoskins has more homers through his first 14 games than any Phillie in at least 100 years.
Beltre keeps bashing. The Texas Rangers beat the Angels 7-5 in extra innings, powered by a pair of homers from ageless Adrian Beltre. He now has 461 career long balls and moved to within one of Jose Canseco and Adam Dunn, who are tied for 35th all time.
Beltre's OPS is now .947 on the season. Among players with at least 250 plate appearances in a season, that ranks 20th among players 38 or older. Just ahead of him are Cal Ripken (No. 18 with a .952 OPS in 1999) and Willie Stargell (No. 19 with a .949 OPS in 1978). If Beltre passes that pair, he'd end up with the the highest-ever OPS for an infielder in his age-38 season or older.