There have only been 23 perfect games in Major League history, but there have been several occasions in which other pitchers' names could have been etched in the history books had it not been for a hitter reaching base in the ninth inning or later. Here are the 13 most recent games in which a pitcher took perfection into the ninth or later, but lost it after coming ever so close to baseball immortality:
• Carlos Rodón, White Sox: April 14, 2021, vs. Indians
Rodón was this close to making the White Sox the first MLB team with four perfect games. The left-hander retired the first 25 Cleveland batters he faced, rarely breaking a sweat. When José Abreu narrowly beat Josh Naylor on a close race to first base for the first out of the ninth, it looked like perfection was indeed in the air. But after getting ahead of Roberto Pérez 0-2, Rodón threw a slider that dove down and in and just clipped Pérez on the foot. That made Rodón the third pitcher in the modern era (since 1900) to have only a ninth-inning HBP come between him and a perfecto. Still, the 28-year-old recovered to complete the no-hitter, a fantastic accomplishment for a pitcher who was non-tendered by the White Sox in December 2020, after throwing just 42 1/3 innings over two injury-marred seasons.
• Mike Leake, Mariners: July 19, 2019, vs. Angels
Barely a week after he was on the other end of the Angels' combined no-hitter against Seattle, Leake came within three outs of perfection in a rematch against the Halos in his very next start. Leake entered the ninth inning at T-Mobile Park having retired all 24 Angels he'd faced on just 76 pitches, but Luis Rengifo grounded a seeing-eye single through the right side leading off the inning. It would have been the second straight perfect game thrown by the Mariners -- Felix Hernandez had MLB's last perfecto on Aug. 15, 2012. The veteran right-hander still completed the shutout, the second of his 10-year career.
• Ryne Stanek and Ryan Yarbrough, Rays: July 14, 2019, at Orioles
In what could have been the first combined perfect game in MLB history, Stanek threw the first two innings, then Yarbrough took over and they combined to retire the first 24 Orioles in order. But Hanser Alberto led off the ninth against Yarbrough with a single, grounding the ball where the second baseman would've been had the Rays not been in a shift. That kick-started a Baltimore rally and Tampa Bay would need two more pitchers, Oliver Drake and Emilio Pagan, to close out a 4-1 victory.
• Jorge Lopez, Royals: Sept. 8, 2018, at Twins
In just his 18th career appearance, the 25-year-old right-hander came three outs shy of becoming the first Puerto Rican-born pitcher in MLB history to toss a perfect game. He retired the first 24 Twins he faced at Target Field, but walked Max Kepler to open the ninth inning before losing the no-hitter on a Robbie Grossman single. In all, Lopez went eight-plus innings, yielding one run on one hit, walking one and striking out four in a 4-1 Kansas City victory.
• Rich Hill, Dodgers: Aug. 23, 2017, at Pirates
Hill's heartbreak was doubly painful in that not only did he lose a perfect game in the ninth inning due to an error in the field, but he lost the no-hitter and the game when he surrendered a Josh Harrison walk-off home run to lead off the 10th inning at PNC Park. In the 1-0 loss, Hill struck out 10.
• Max Scherzer, Nationals: June 20, 2015, vs. Pirates
Scherzer has been dominant for many years, but in this game against the Pirates, he was unhittable. With two outs in the ninth inning, he hit pinch-hitter Jose Tabata on the left arm to lose the perfect game. But he got the next batter, Josh Harrison, to fly out to left fielder Michael A. Taylor to complete the no-hitter, the first of two he would throw that season (also against the Mets on Oct. 3). Scherzer struck out 10 in the masterpiece, throwing 106 pitches.
• Yusmeiro Petit, Giants: Sept. 6, 2013, vs. D-backs
Petit, who would go on to become somewhat of an unsung hero during the Giants' 2014 run to their third World Series title in five years, was nearly flawless on this night at AT&T Park. But with one out in the ninth, pinch-hitter Eric Chavez singled on a line drive to right field to break it up. Petit would finish the game, allowing just the one baserunner while striking out seven.
• Yu Darvish, Rangers: April 2, 2013, at Astros
In the second start of his second Major League season, Darvish was overpowering for 8 2/3 innings, but Houston's Marwin Gonzalez singled back through the middle to end the perfect game bid and the night for Darvish. With just one Astros hitter reaching base against him, he struck out 14 in the 111-pitch effort.
• Travis Wood, Reds: July 10, 2010, at Phillies
In just his third career start, Wood held a powerful Philadelphia lineup without a baserunner until Carlos Ruiz opened the ninth inning with a double. Wood completed nine innings, walking none and striking out eight, but the Reds went on to lose that game, 1-0, in 11 innings.
• Armando Galarraga, Tigers: June 2, 2010, vs. Indians
Galarraga was perfect with two outs in the ninth inning at Comerica Park, when Jason Donald hit a ground ball wide of first, resulting in an infamous missed call by first-base umpire Jim Joyce. Though upon replay it appeared Galarraga got to the bag with the toss from first baseman Jose Cabrera ahead of Donald, Donald was called safe. That was the only hit Galarraga gave up over nine innings, while he struck out three. Galarraga and Joyce met afterward and Joyce, in tears, apologized for missing the call, receiving the lineup card from Galarraga the next day in a symbolic gesture from both sides.
• Scott Baker, Twins: Aug. 31, 2007, vs. Royals
Pitching in the second game of a doubleheader at the Metrodome, Baker retired the first 24 batters he faced before issuing a leadoff walk to Kansas City's John Buck in the ninth. He lost the no-hitter two batters later, when Mike Sweeney hit a line drive up the middle for a single. Baker completed the game, which Minnesota won, 5-0, giving up the one walk and one hit while striking out nine.
• Mike Mussina, Yankees: Sept. 2, 2001, at Red Sox
Mussina was utterly dominant for 8 2/3 innings at Fenway Park, striking out 13 en route to 26 straight Boston hitters retired. But that's when Carl Everett lined a single to left field to break up perfection. Mussina then got Trot Nixon to ground out to second to end the game. It wasn't the first time Mussina had taken a perfect game into the ninth before it was broken up.
• Mike Mussina, Orioles: May 30, 1997, vs. Indians
Mussina took a perfect game into the ninth inning at Camden Yards against the Tribe, but with one out, surrendered a single to Sandy Alomar Jr. Mussina proceeded to fan Brian Giles and Marquis Grissom to end the game, his ninth and 10th strikeouts of the contest.