On Wednesday night in Oakland, Yankees sixth starter Domingo Germán threw the 24th perfect game in MLB history.
On Wednesday night in limbo, Dodgers left-hander and pitcher of a generation Clayton Kershaw waited to determine whether or not he'd hit the IL before the All-Star break. He doesn't seem likely to dwell on the past. He doesn't seem liable to dwelling on much of anything. Still, we wouldn't blame him if a seed of frustration crept into his mind when Germán -- of all people -- finished off the one crown jewel that's still missing from his resumé.
Kershaw, whose statistics look so good that calling them "video game numbers" is only applicable if we're talking about Esports professionals, has come about as close to perfection as one man can on three separate occasions. Once, he slipped. Once, someone else did. Once, someone got in his way for the greater good. Baseball can be beautiful. It can also be cruel. It can be both to the same man.
The first time the flirtation occurred, Kershaw struck out 15 Colorado Rockies in a masterpiece no-hitter. The only blemish on the evening was an unfortunate Hanley Ramirez throwing error. This play was nearly completed.
Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw narrowly missed Perfect Game history several times
"It would've been a perfect game, if not for the error," is the equivalent of, "It wouldn't have been 'stealing' if I'd paid for that ottoman." A game isn't perfect unless the entire team is. That said, Kershaw completed his task with aplomb. Those around him did not.
As one of the game's very few truly elite, world historical pitchers, it still stood to reason that Kershaw might have another chance at perfection. Of course, as we learned again Wednesday night, sometimes perfection seeks out oddballs rather than Cy Youngs, but ... still, that notion wouldn't have been wrong.
Kershaw made it through seven perfect innings against the Minnesota Twins last April in the Minneapolis chill on just 80 pitches. The concept of a complete game, that early in the season, in that weather, triggered Dave Roberts' panic switch. Or maybe somebody upstairs? Either way, Kershaw was removed and denied a second shot in the name of preventative injury maintenance.
The left-hander hit the IL several times later in the season anyway.
Stunningly, just a few months later, Kershaw was given a third chance, and was nearly perfect again on the road in Anaheim. That time, though, the game fell apart on the lefty's shoulders in the eighth inning of an eventual 9-1 win just before the All-Star break.
Unlike Kershaw's other clear paths to perfection, he was the fallible party. He reached the odd portion of any perfect game bid where a pitcher must prioritize finding the plate over inducing chases, and got touched up when he danced too close to the zone. It happens.
The other two near-misses? Team defense is part of the game. Conservative treatment of modern pitchers is, unfortunately, part of the game. But both times, the deserving party got burned by something beyond his control. On Wednesday, a middling righty in Germán lived out a legend's dream in Oakland while the Dodgers' icon watched, laid up, from Southern California. Nobody ever said this game was perfect.