Petit's near perfect night worth marveling at
Journeyman overcomes countless obstacles to come within one out of history
He's why we love this stuff. He's why we appreciate resilience and toughness and determination in our professional athletes. He's a reminder that hard work and persistence can overcome countless obstacles.
Don't you think there were plenty of days when Yusmeiro Petit was alone in believing in himself?
There just had to be.
Petit stands now as a victory for every other journeyman who refuses to give up. For every other baseball player looking for someone to unlock the talent he believes is there.
There are dozens of guys out there who look at Petit, 28, and think, "If he can do it, I can, too." Good for them.
Maybe they only need one more adjustment to their mechanics or their grip or maybe their attitude. Maybe they just need someone to believe in them. If Petit can tune out the doubters, then surely plenty of others can, too.
On Friday night, they stood and cheered for Petit at AT&T Park after he came within one out of throwing the 24th perfect game in history. He surely got close enough to touch it and taste it and feel it.
He retired 26 D-backs in a row by pitching aggressively. That is, he wasn't afraid. He threw a first-pitch strike to 21 of 28 D-backs and worked the outside corners brilliantly.
His fastball was located smartly, his breaking pitch wicked. Never mind what went before. Never mind those 11 seasons in the Minor Leagues, those 189 Minor League games. Never mind all the times he was traded (twice), waived (once) and released (twice), or that he spent the 2011 season in the Mexican League.
He started 28 Triple-A games for the Giants last season and got one big league start after the club had clinched the National League West and was resting its regular starters.
The Giants designated him for assignment five weeks ago after one relief appearance, then sent him back to the Minor Leagues when no team claimed him. This was his third start since being recalled for the second time. He has won all three, and even before Friday, had pitched well enough to open some eyes.
"Experience," he said recently when asked about his improvement. "I wasn't consistent with what I was doing. I'm totally different compared with what I was doing before. I'm more consistent with the breaking balls."
Against the D-backs, he threw fastballs, changeups and curveballs, threw 'em all, controlled 'em all. He was brilliant at changing speeds and keeping hitters off balance.
For instance, he opened the eighth inning with a wicked combination to Martin Prado: cut fastball for strike one and curveball for strike two.
Then he missed with a high fastball, an 87-mph heater, which is nothing special by Major League standards.
But he set Prado up with that high fastball and came right back with a curveball in the dirt. Prado chased it, and Petit had his 22nd out.
He changed his pattern on the next hitter, Aaron Hill, throwing a couple of breaking pitches low and away before coming back with a high fastball that Hill popped to second baseman Marco Scutaro.
He finished the eighth by winning an eight-pitch at-bat against Miguel Montero, who was the first Arizona hitter to get a three-ball count. Petit got out of the eighth inning with a full-count fastball that Montero grounded to first baseman Brandon Belt for the 24th out.
Petit opened the ninth inning by striking out Micah Owings on three curveballs. He threw just two pitches to Gerardo Parra, getting him to ground out to second.
And then it was Chavez, the respected old pro, called on to pinch-hit. With the count 2-2, Petit threw Chavez a slider that just missed low.
Had plate umpire Phil Cuzzi given Petit the call, no one would have said a word.
But with another full count, Petit threw Chavez an 89-mph heater. Chavez lined it to right, and it fell just in front of Pence.
Petit pounded his right hand into his glove and screamed. He then gathered himself and got A.J. Pollock on a grounder to third to finish the 3-0 victory.
When it ended, he was cheered in a way he'd probably never been cheered before. His teammates embraced him one by one.
"I thank God for everything that happened tonight," Petit said.
Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.