Drew Rasmussen of the Rays against the Orioles on Aug. 14, 2022. Aug 14, 2022; St. Petersburg, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Drew Rasmussen (57) throws a pitch against the Baltimore Orioles during the second inning at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Sunday saw Tampa Bay Rays‘ pitcher Drew Rasmussen very close to making some exceptional MLB history, but he couldn’t quite pull it off. Rasmussen had a perfect game (which would have been only the 24th in MLB history) through eight innings on the road against the Baltimore Orioles, and with an incredibly low pitch count of 79. But he lost that in the top of the ninth against Jorge Mateo, the first batter he faced, who smacked a double on the first pitch he saw.

MLB’s last perfect game came from Félix Hernández of the Seattle Mariners in 2012. However, the Orioles’ John Means came exceptionally close in 2021, throwing a no-hitter that saw him face the minimum 27 batters, and losing a perfect game only on a dropped third strike in the third inning against the Mariners’ Sam Haggerty (who was later thrown out stealing second). The AL East rival Rays and Orioles have come close to this before, too, with Rays’ pitchers Ryne Stanek and Ryan Yarbrough combining for eight perfect innings in July 2019 before Orioles’ ninth-inning leadoff hitter Hanser Alberto broke it up with a single.

The other close perfect game we saw recently was from the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw in April of this year. Kershaw was perfect through seven innings, but was pulled at the start of the eighth despite throwing just 80 pitches. Reliever Alex Vesta then allowed a hit in the eighth. But Kershaw himself later called that “the right choice,” saying this year’s offseason lockout and his past injuries (which have since flared up again) meant he wasn’t yet in shape to throw a complete game.

It’s unfortunate that Rasmussen wasn’t able to complete the perfect game bid here. And at only 79 pitches heading into the ninth, there wasn’t really a question of a pitch count getting in his way. But Mateo’s double here helps reinforce how hard, and how unusual, perfect games are. And the Rays won 4-1, improving Rasmussen’s record to 7-4 on the year. But the perfect game list will remain at 23 for now.

[MLB GameDay; photo from Kim Klement, USA Today Sports]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.