May 23, 1998, 25 years ago today: Having just pitched a perfect game May 17 against Minnesota—that coming after retiring the final 10 batters in his previous start against Kansas City—the New York Yankees’ David Wells extends his American League-record string of consecutive outs to 38 when Red Sox leadoff hitter Darren Lewis grounds out in the first inning. However, his streak would come to an end when Boston’s second batter, Darren Bragg, reached base on a short, high pop that was lost in the sun. The Yankees went on to win nevertheless, 12-3.
Wells’ perfecto was one of four such gems during the 1990s. There were two perfect games in the 2000s—then the 2010s started off with a bang. Dallas Braden of the Oakland A’s threw one on Mother’s Day in 2010, and Roy Halladay of the Philadelphia Phils tossed one less than three weeks later. The real bonanza came in 2012, when Philip Humber of the Chicago White Sox, Matt Cain of the San Francisco Giants and Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners all went 27-up, 27-down. It was the most perfect games ever in a single season, but there hasn’t been one since.
There have been some close calls recently. Last year—one day before the 10th anniversary of the perfect game from King Felix—Tampa Bay righthander Drew Rasmussen was just three outs away history. And he was facing 7-8-9 in the order. But Baltimore’s Jorge Mateo ripped a double down the left-field line, and that was that. In 2021, the Orioles’ John Means faced the minimum 27 batters while no-hitting the Mariners. The only thing that kept it from being a perfect game was a dropped third strike in the third inning that allowed a runner to reach first base.
In 2013, the year after Hernandez’s historic game, there was a performance that could have been perfect had it not been for the very first batter of the game. Shelby Miller of the St. Louis Cardinals gave up a leadoff single—then retired the next 27 batters in a row to record his first career shutout in a 3-0 win over the Colorado Rockies. The perfect game drought is going on 11 years now, but no-hitters have not skipped a beat during this stretch. Since Felix’s perfecto, there have been 40 nine-inning no-hitters (none yet this year). You’d think at least one of those would have ended up a perfect game.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra. He also anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK and one on News/Talk KBOI. His Scott Slant column runs every Wednesday.)