Dodgers lefty Rich Hill lost his perfect game on an error in the ninth inning, then lost his no-hitter on a leadoff home run in the 10th by Josh Harrison that sent the Pittsburgh Pirates over Los Angeles 1-0 Wednesday night in Pittsburgh.
The Pirates didn’t have a runner until Jordy Mercer led off the ninth with a sharp grounder that smacked off third baseman Logan Forsythe’s glove for an error. Hill retired the next three batters.
Hill (9-5) came back out for the 10th and Harrison sent his 99th pitch of the night into the first row of seats in left field, just out of the reach of Los Angeles left fielder Curtis Granderson. Hill struck out 10 without a walk.
Hill became the first pitcher since Pedro Martinez in 1995 to take a no-hit try into extra innings. Martinez, then with Montreal, lost his perfect game in the 10th at San Diego.
After Mercer reached in the ninth, Hill quickly retired the next three batters. Chris Stewart laid down a sacrifice bunt, Jose Osuna grounded out to Forsythe and when shortstop Corey Seager gobbled up a grounder by Starling Marte, Hill had held the Pirates hitless for nine innings.
But to get official credit for a no-hitter under Major League Baseball rules, a pitcher must complete the game – going nine innings isn’t enough if it goes into extras. Back in 1959, a Pirates pitcher had perhaps the most famous near-miss of all when Harvey Haddix lost his perfect game and the game itself in the 13th at Milwaukee.
In what’s been a charmed season for the first-place Dodgers, a 37-year-old journeyman received an ovation from the Pirates crowd at PNC Park as Hill walked off the mound after the ninth. A large mass of fans clad in Dodger blue sitting behind the Los Angeles dugout rose to its feet after taking in the latest remarkable night in a season full of them for the team chasing the best regular season record in major-league history.
Rather than go to the best bullpen in the majors, Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts sent Hill back out to see if he could keep the no-hitter going.
The appearance of his No. 44 jersey sent a jolt through the crowd of 19,859. It also proved to be one inning too many.
One batter, in fact. Hill could only watch the ball sail over the fence and, without expression, walked to the dugout.
“We knew we had a chance to win with one hit,” Harrison said later.
Harrison broke up a no-hit bid by Detroit’s Justin Verlander with two outs in the ninth in 2012. That game ended in a Pittsburgh loss. This one ended with Harrison sprinting toward a mob of teammates at home plate while Hill left as the losing pitcher following the best game of his career.
Juan Nicasio (2-5) picked up the win after working the top of the 10th.
Miami’s Edinson Volquez has pitched the only no-hitter in the majors this year, in June against Arizona.
Seattle ace Felix Hernandez threw the last perfect game in the big leagues, in 2012 against Tampa Bay. Since then, three pitchers have lost perfect game tries with two outs in the ninth – Yu Darvish for Texas and Yusmeiro Petit for San Francisco in 2013 and Max Scherzer for Washington in 2015.
Hill raced through eight innings thanks in part to impeccable control and some spectacular defense behind him, most notably a diving grab by second baseman Chase Utley on a liner by Josh Bell leading off the eighth.
Bell was ruled safe on a close play at first in the second inning, but the call was overturned when replay showed Hill tagged him just before his foot hit the bag. First baseman Adrian Gonzalez also made a sliding grab on a bunt attempt by Harrison in the fourth but otherwise, Hill was in firm command.
Hill had come close to perfection in the past. Last Sept. 10, he retired all 21 batters at Miami before Roberts pulled him after seven innings and 89 pitches because of a recurrence of blisters on his pitching hand. He also was dealing with a groin injury.
In December, Hill re-signed as a free agent with the Dodgers, getting a three-year deal worth $48 million. The contract was quite a reward for a former journeyman who, as recently as 2015, was pitching for the Long Island Ducks in the independent Atlantic League.
Hill began this night with a 47-32 record in a career that began in 2005 and took him from the Chicago Cubs to Baltimore, then to Boston, Cleveland, the Angels, the Yankees, Oakland and the Dodgers. Hill has overcome serious injuries during his career, including a torn labrum in 2009 and elbow ligament replacement surgery in 2011.
Trevor Williams matched Hill out for out, if not pitch for pitch. The Pirates rookie kept Los Angeles off the board for eight innings, letting Hill to line out in the fourth to leave the bases loaded in the fourth, using a pair of double plays in the fifth and sixth and getting Forsythe to line out after a nine-pitch at bat with two on and two outs in the eighth.
The Pirates have been no-hit nine teams in team history. For nine innings it looked like they were on their way to a 10th. One swing from Harrison changed all that.
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