Tabata spoils Scherzer's bid for perfect game
Pirates pinch-hitter hit by pitch on 2-2 count with two outs in ninth inning of no-hitter
WASHINGTON -- Jose Tabata, the only man to stand between Max Scherzer and perfection, wore a sheepish grin.
He hadn't stepped into the 2-and-2 slider that hit him with two outs in the ninth inning, turning him into the only baserunner of Scherzer's 6-0 no-hitter over the Pirates. But he hadn't exactly tried to step away from it, either.
"He tried to throw a slider inside, and it didn't break. It stayed right there," Tabata said. "And he got me. He got me on the elbow, on the protection [his elbow pad]. I want to do my job."
Did Tabata do more? Did he do a job on Scherzer? There were some postgame indications that some of the Nationals faulted him for not trying to avoid the pitch -- as MLB Rule 6.08 mandates as a prerequisite for being awarded a base:
"If the ball is outside the strike zone when it touches the batter, it shall be called a ball if he makes no attempt to avoid being touched."
Washington catcher Wilson Ramos even thought Tabata might have stepped into the pitch. For his part, Nationals manager Matt Williams noted that, regardless of his perception, the last thing he would have wanted to do was challenge the play -- it is reviewable -- and hence risk warping Scherzer's rhythm.
Did Tabata hear about it from the Nationals' dugout as he trotted down the line?
"No. Nobody said nothing," Tabata said. "Maybe, everyone see me like that, but … "
"The ball just nicked him," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "Tabata threw a good at-bat at him."
That, Tabata did, fouling off three tough, nasty two-strike pitches to get to the one that nicked him.
"Oh, yeah. Absolutely," Tabata said, acknowledging his good at-bat. "Good for him. He got a no-no. I know he's one of the best pitchers in the league, and he throws very good. He wanted to strike me out, but my job is to get on base any way I can. So when I saw the umpire make motion for me to go to first base, I'm, 'Oh, wow.' He got me, so he didn't throw a perfect game."
Scherzer wasn't the first player to lose his perfect game by hitting a batter with two outs in the ninth. Back in 1908, Giants pitcher George Wiltse hit the 27th batter he faced before closing out a 10-inning no-hitter against the Phillies.