My colleague picked a good day to go out and catch a baseball game

I ran into one of my colleagues at the coffee stand and asked him how things were going. He said that Wednesday was his wife's birthday, and he asked her if she wanted to do anything special. "Let's catch a baseball game," she suggested.

So off they went to watch a baseball game.

Turns out they chose a good game to watch: Seattle Mariners pitcher Félix Hernández threw a perfect game. (I like how Wikipedia has a page dedicated to the 23rd perfect game in baseball history, but no page for the first perfect game in baseball history. Because Wikipedia covers pop culture prior to 2001 very differently from pop culture after 2001.)

For some reason, the photo caption in the Associated Press article says that the Rays won the game. The Mariners can't get any respect. Their pitcher throws a perfect game and the AP still reports that they lost.

Puzzle: Describe conditions under which a starting pitcher can throw nine complete perfect innings in a nine-inning game and not be credited with a perfect game.

One possible answer: The pitcher for the home team pitches nine perfect innings. The game enters the bottom of the ninth scoreless. During the bottom of the ninth, the home team forfeits the game. According to the rules, the game ends immediately, and since the pitcher did not receive credit for a victory, a perfect game is not awarded.

(For some reason, I enjoy thinking about these bizarre baseball scenarios.)

Comments (28)
  1. John says:

    I think your answer shouldn't qualify since he wouldn't have actually pitched a complete ninth inning.

    [There is a formal definition of "innings pitched" which counts only outs. That's what I meant by "nine complete innings" (27 outs). In retrospect I should've written "nine complete half-innings" to be more clear. -Raymond]
  2. SimonRev says:

    Why wouldn't he have John?  Its not like he could have thrown more pitches while his team is up to bat.  I know that the counter argument was that the 9th inning wasn't actually completed, but still there is no way he could have done more pitching: so for his part he pitched 9 complete innings.

  3. Scooter McFly says:

    I believe that if the game is tied the perfect game can be lost in the tenth inning. I also believe this happened to Dennis Martinez but I can't quickly find a reference for this.

    Those are my beliefs.

    [Yup, that's why I added "nine-inning game." -Raymond]
  4. Mike G says:

    @Scooter McFly, you're looking for Pedro Martinez:…/Pedro_Martinez

  5. Gabe says:

    I think it's interesting how in the past there have been stretches of decades without perfect games, yet this season there have been 3 (two with the Mariners at home)! Maybe it's the athletes juicing…

  6. kog999 says:

    I'm not super into baseball but if the pitcher gets disqualified from the game for say cheating by using a non-standard ball which is discovered after he has completed all his pitches in the ninth inning, i'm guessing he might not be credited with a perfect game

  7. Mike Dunn says:

    Here's a guess at a puzzle answer:  The home pitcher pitches 9 perfect (half-)innings, and the game is scoreless after 8.5 innings.  Then the game is called off due to rain.  Even though it was an official game, the game was tied, so there is no winner and the game must be replayed.

  8. John says:

    [There is a formal definition of "innings pitched" which counts only outs. That's what I meant by "nine complete innings" (27 outs). In retrospect I should've written "nine complete half-innings" to be more clear. -Raymond]

    Sorry, I should have used baseball terms.  What I meant is that he wouldn't be credited with nine innings pitched because I don't believe a forfeiture credits the opposing pitcher with any remaining outs.  I could be wrong as I am not familiar with the nuances of the rules, but I couldn't find anything in a quick skim of the rule book.

  9. John says:

    Doh, disregard my previous comment.  I misunderstood the scenario you gave.  I thought the visiting team was forfeiting when in fact it was the home team.  While possible within the framework of the rules, this specific scenario would never play out in real life so this discussion is purely academic.

  10. Mike says:

    Raymond, your question reminded me of the famous game where Babe Ruth walked the first batter of the game, argued with the umpire, and was thrown out of the game. His replacement, Ernie Shore, picked the runner off first base, and then retired all 26 batters in a row. So he did get 27 outs in a row without allowing a baserunner.

  11. Mike says:

    And as a snarkier answer, I'll say "Armando Galarraga".…/Armando_Galarraga%27s_near-perfect_game

  12. GregM says:

    (I like how Wikipedia has a page dedicated to the 23rd perfect game in baseball history, but no page for the first perfect game in baseball history. Because Wikipedia covers pop culture prior to 2001 very differently from pop culture after 2001.)

    It's not just that.  The first perfect game in the modern era (Cy Young 1904) has one, as does Sandy Koufax (1965).  The perfect games from 1999 on have them, but the game in 1998 does not.  At least all of the pitchers have pages.

    I must thank you for this article, for I learned that the first perfect game was pitched literally just down the street from where I went to college.

  13. pj says:

    There are many reasons that an umpire can declare a forfeit. If that were to occur after 9 innings were complete, the forfeited team officially loses 9-to-0.

  14. Mike Dunn says:

    Update to my guess: I had the idea right, but not the specifics.  The game would have to be suspended by a condition listed in 4.12(a), which includes rain.  If that were the last scheduled meeting of those teams in the season, or if the suspended game could not be completed before their last regularly-scheduled game, rule 4.12(b)(4) says that the suspended game becomes a called game.  Rule 4.12(b)(4)(ii) says that a suspended game that is called after being a regulation game (5+ innings completed) is declared a tie game.  So no winner and no perfect game.

  15. Lee C. says:

    I've been reading about perfect games and how baseball works, and now I think I understand a cartoon that I saw about 30 years ago but didn't understand at the time. A young man and young woman arrive at a baseball game late. The scoreboard is almost full, with perhaps an inning and a half to go. All the posted scores are zero. The young woman says haughtily to the distraught young man, "See, I told you we weren't missing anything."

  16. voo says:

    Was never even remotely interested in Baseball, but still reading these articles just for the heck of it (I sometimes even have a hunch what Raymond is talking about!).

    But still very impressed with how the whole Armando Galarraga incident was handled, that's good advertisement for the sport right there.

  17. pj says:

    Just to be picky, a game that ends before the bottom of the ninth is played is not a "nine-inning game" as specified in the puzzle. The home pitcher can throw nine complete perfect innings in an 8 1/2 inning game, but it is not a nine-inning game until either a) the game is over because the home team already holds the lead (in which case it is too late for a suspension or forfeit), or b) the bottom of the ninth is played to completion.

    So, the suspension or the forfeit has to occur after the ninth is complete at a 0-0 tie, but before the tenth begins.

    Of course I suspect Raymond simply meant "a game that doesn't go into extra innings"… but that's not what the requirements document says. ;)

  18. pj says:

    One scenario that very nearly meets the requirements would be an uncaught third strike on the final batter, in which said batter reaches first base on a passed ball or wild pitch. In this case the pitcher has recorded his 27th out — thus "9.0" innings — before any runners reach base, but the game is extended at this point and so he can no longer get a perfect game. Not sure if I would count that as a "complete" perfect inning though.

  19. GregM says:

    PJ, a perfect game is one in which no batter safely reaches first base, for any reason, including an error.  In this case, the play is "strikeout, runner reaches on an error", so no out is recorded.  The pitcher struck out the 27th batter in a thus-far perfect game, but did not get the 27th out.

  20. David Walker says:

    @Michael Dunn: "So no winner and no perfect game."  Are you assuming that a perfect game requires a winner?  Are you saying "No winner and THUS no perfect game"?

    You might be right, I don't know, but maybe there can be a perfect game without a winner.

  21. pj says:

    @David Walker: The pitcher has to be the winner to pitch a perfect game.

    @GregM: I am aware that my scenario is NOT a perfect game — that is the point of the puzzle. The rest comes down to strict definitions. Did a pitcher pitch a "complete perfect" ninth in my scenario? I would say not, which is why I said "very nearly".

  22. GregM says:

    PJ, I agree, it's not a complete perfect ninth.

    David, as PJ said, the victory is part of the definition of a perfect game.

  23. I would argue that a game which enters the ninth inning at all is a nine-inning game.

  24. James says:

    Might be more interesting to wonder how nobody can be credited with a perfect game after the pitchers for both sides have a perfect game except for the blocking factor.

    [You sort of answered your own question. "Why don't they get credit for a perfect game if they met all the criteria except X?" Um, because they didn't meet the X criterium. -Raymond]
  25. Neil says:

    @GregM: Thanks for letting those of us outside the World (Series) know what a perfect game actually is.

  26. James says:

    Yes, I sort of answered. Not being  a US person I know almost nothing about baseball so have little idea what x may be. Assaulting the officials, perhaps.

  27. A pitcher starts the game and gets two outs.  He then swaps positions with the right fielder, who throws one pitch and gives up a hit.  The pitcher swaps positions back and pitches a perfect game the rest of the way.  The only question here is did the pitcher pitch a "complete" 9 innings.  Using the normal definitions, no, but using the baseball definition of innings as outs recorded, yes (maybe).

  28. Home team pitcher throws 27 Ks and after the top of the ninth inning there is no score.

    In the bottom of the ninth the pitcher does something so bad that he is permanently banned from baseball and his records are stripped.

    Then, still in the bottom of the ninth, the home team scores, winning the game.

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