Justin Verlander threw the second no-hitter of his career on Saturday, but he was five outs away from pitching a perfect game.â†µ
Verlander lost his chance at perfection with one out in the eighth inning, after a 12-pitch battle with J.P. Arencibia. He got ahead of Arencibia with an 0-2 count, but the Blue Jays' catcher fouled off six pitches and took four others that were called balls.â†µ
But look where the 12th pitch of the at-bat was, according to MLB.com's Gameday. (We prefer the Classic view.):â†µ
The pitch that home plate umpire Jerry Meals called ball four was just off the plate. And very, very close to where three other pitches had been called strikes. But the pitch was outside Meals' strike zone (and rightfully so, according to Gameday) and Verlander's bid for a perfect game was gone.â†µ
(It's worth noting that the last two pitches Verlander threw to Arencibia -- his 94th and 95th pitches of the day -- were both clocked at 100 mph by Pitch F/X. He had plenty left to finish the game off, and did so with authority.)â†µ
Verlander still faced the minimum 27 batters, however, as Edwin Encarnacion followed Arencibia by grounding into an inning-ending double play.â†µ
But looking at that pitch chart is another reminder of just how hard it is to pitch a perfect game. (As if Armando Galarraga's almost perfect game last June didn't already make the point for Tigers fans.) The feat has only been achieved 20 times. Verlander was only a couple of inches from becoming the 21st pitcher to do it on Saturday.