Of all of the players to rip away Clayton Kershaw’s latest attempt for perfection, it’s Luis Rengifo – a career .225/.294/.341 hitter. The 25-year-old infielder has appeared in more than 250 games over the last four seasons. However, in 818 career at-bats, no single has ever meant more to the Rengifo’s ball club.
Kershaw – a 15-year vet, winning 192 games and a world series with the Los Angeles Dodgers – possesses many superb accolades. But perfection eludes MLB‘s 2014 MVP and three-time Cy Young Award winner. The Texan completed a no-hit bid in 2014, only marred by a throwing error from shortstop Hanley Ramirez in the seventh inning. However, baseball’s last perfect performance dates back to August 15, 2012 from Seattle Mariners’ hurler Felix Hernandez.
Nearly a decade later, Kershaw’s bid captured audiences yearning to witness history. Instead, a liner into left field off Rengifo’s bat to lead off the eighth stole the moment of glory. Manager Dave Roberts yanked his starter upon the conclusion of the frame, sending in a reliever to clinch the victory over the Los Angeles Angels. Kershaw’s final line still reads an incredibly impressive 8 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 6 K. The performance also lowers his ERA to 2.13 on the season.
Roberts famously pulled Clayton Kershaw from a perfect bid following the pitcher’s completion of the seventh inning earlier this season. Only the pitcher’s first start of the season, Kershaw struck out 13 Minnesota Twins’ batters before exiting with 80 pitches.
While incapable of securing a historic moment for the game, social media still had plenty to say about the Dodgers’ ace after last night’s performance.
Baseball’s Odd History with Perfection, Kershaw’s Waning Opportunities
But the lost history begs the question if we might ever see perfection again. If this era’s greatest pitcher can’t accomplish the feat, who might? The century-and-a-half history of the game has seen 23 perfect games. And as the game evolves to account for lower pitch counts to extend a pitcher’s arm, it’s not out of the realm of possibilities that Hernandez’s perfecto remains the last of its kind for years to come.
However, when digging into the history of the game, it doesn’t take the world’s best at the position to complete the feat. In April 2012, Chicago White Sox pitcher Philip Humber tossed nine perfect frames, ending on a controversial check-swing dropped-third strike. Had Mariners’ outfielder Raul Ibanez run to first instead of arguing with the umpire, it’s possible history doesn’t occur.
But Humber’s story is wilder than a dropped-third. Unlike Kershaw, Humber’s career numbers hardly warrant any attention. The White Sox thrower moved to the bullpen later in the 2012 season following multiple poor performances. Humber finished the season with a 6.44 ERA. He signed with the Houston Astros in 2013, but went 0-8 with a 7.90 ERA in 17 appearances before calling it quits.
Detroit Tigers’ starter Armando Galarraga’s near-perfect game in 2010 brought the loudest appeal for the introduction of instant replay. With 26 batters retired and just one separating the pitcher from history, a blown call at first base tragically ended the bid.
It’s a feat we might never see again, and as Clayton Kershaw chugs along toward the end of his illustrious career, our hopes rely on the aching shoulders of No. 22.