(Photo by Associated Press)
When Felix Hernandez steps to the mound tonight, he’ll be the 17th pitcher since 1922 to follow up a perfect game in the same season. Don Larsen threw his perfect game in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series. The Yankees wrapped it up in Game 7, and Larsen never went back out to the mound in the World Series. Mike Witt of the Angels threw his perfect game on Sept. 30, 1984, in his final start of that season (what a way to go out!).
The other 16 haven’t fared so well. (We’re not counting Lee Richmond of the famed Worcester Ruby Legs, or John Montgomery Ward of the Providence Grays, who threw perfect games five days apart in 1880 (yes, those teams were part of the National League in 1880). I couldn’t find any detailed record of their followup game, not even on the old standbys, BaseballReference.com or retrosheet.org. The best I could determine was that Richmond’s next start — two days later — against Cleveland was a 7-1 loss by Worcester. No box score. Ditto Ward’s next start, in which his Providence team won 8-3 against Buffalo. Similarly, no detailed records exist that I could find for Cy Young’s followup start to his May 5, 1904 perfecto. He went back out to the mound six days later, on May 11, and his Boston team beat Detroit, 1-0, in 15 innings, so I can surmise that ol’ Cy had a pretty good game. He went on to win 26 games that year, but shockingly, didn’t win the Cy Young Award. As for Addie Joss, who threw the fourth perfect game in history on Oct. 2, 1908, not only was it his last start of the season, but there are still no box scores available for games in that, or the following, season. If any readers kept their scorecards from any of those followup games, please let me know.
So my retrospective of perfect game followups began with Charlie Robertson of the White Sox, who threw his on April 30, 1922. On May 5, he went back out to face the Cleveland Indians — just like Felix will do tonight at Safeco Field — and just didn’t have the same magic. In six innings, he gave up nine hits and four runs, taking the loss in a 6-3 Indians’ victory. He went 14-15 that year and went on to have a 49-80 record in his career.
All told, the 16 previous pitchers haven’t fared so well, compiling a 6-7 record with three no-decisions, with a 5.12 earned-run average. A chart of all the followup outings can be found at the bottom of this post.
If you throw in the next starts for Larsen and Witt (which took place the following season), the mark is 6-8 with four no decisions, and a 5.35 ERA.
Only two of the pitchers threw complete games in their encore outing — both in losing efforts:
—Len Barker of the Indians, in a 3-1 loss against, my oh my, the Seattle Mariners in Cleveland on May 20, 1981. In that one, Tom Paciorek broke a 1-1 tie with a go-ahead double in the fourth, and Jeff Burroughs added a solo homer in the ninth. Barker had the most strikeouts of any pitcher in his next game, 10; and
—Dallas Braden of the A’s, who went eight innings in a 4-0 loss to the Angels in Anaheim on May 14, 2010. He gave up seven hits, and all four runs were earned.
Among the real stinkers were Catfish Hunter’s game at Minnesota in 1968 (eight runs allowed in six innings in a win), and Philip Humber giving up eight hits and nine runs in five innings against the Red Sox after shutting down the Mariners at Safeco Field on April 21 of this season.
The best followup effort may have been by Tom Browning of the Reds in 1988. He went eight innings against the Giants, giving up just five hits and one run in a 5-1 victory.
This year, Humber turned in a stinker, as mentioned. Matt Cain won his next start (becoming the second pitcher to have his followup against the opposite league; Don Larsen in 1956/57 was the other), working five innings and giving up six hits and three runs in a 5-3 win over the Angels.
The followup game I find most interesting (not surprisingly) is by Sandy Koufax. In his perfect game, the losing pitcher, Bob Hendley of the Cubs, gave up just one hit in a 1-0, complete-game loss (and the hit didn’t even figure in the scoring). Five days later, the same two pitchers hooked up, and this time Hendley out-pitched Koufax, going the distance on a 4-hitter in a 2-1 Cubs win. Koufax lasted just six, giving up two runs (one earned) in the loss, and struck out just three (compared to 14 in his perfecto).
Here are the pitching lines for the next start after their perfect game for the last 18 pitchers (two of which occurred the following season):
Charlie Robertson, White Sox, vs. Cleveland, May 5, 1922: 6 ip, 9 h, 4 r, 4 er, 3 bb, 3 K (L). Final score: Indians 6, White Sox 3
Don Larsen, Yankees, vs. Boston, April 20, 1957: 1.1 ip, 5 h, 4 r, 4 er, 1 bb, 0 K (ND)* Final score: Yankees 10, Red Sox 7.
Jim Bunning, Phillies, vs. St. Louis, June 26, 1964: 7 ip, 11 h, 4 r, 4 er, 0 bb, 5 K (ND). Final score: Phillies 6, Cardinals 5.
Sandy Koufax, Dodgers. vs. Cubs, Sept. 14, 1965: 6 ip, 5 h, 2 r, 1 er, 0 bb, 3 K (L). Final score: Cubs 2, Dodgers 1.
Catfish Hunter, A’s, vs. Twins, May 14, 1968: 6 ip, 8 h, 8 r, 8 er, 5 bb, 4 K (W); Final score: A’s 13, Twins 8.
Len Barker, Indians, vs. Mariners, May 20, 1981: 9 ip, 8 h, 3 r, 3 er, 1 bb, 10 K (L). Final score: Mariners 3, Indians 1.
Mike Witt, Angels, vs. Twins, Apirl 9, 1985: 7.2 ip, 10 h, 4 r, 4 er, 3 bb, 3 K (L). Final score: Twins 6, Angels 2*.
Tom Browning, Reds, vs. Giants, Sept. 21, 1988: 8 ip, 5 h, 1 r, 1 er, 1 bb, 4 K (W). Final score: Reds 5, Giants 1.
Dennis Martinez, Expos, vs. Phillies, Aug. 12, 1991: 7 ip, 6 h, 4 r, 4 er, 2 bb, 4 K (ND). Final score: Phillies 6, Expos 5.
Kenny Rogers, Rangers, vs. White Sox, Aug. 2, 1994: 5.1 ip, 6 h, 5 r, 4 er, 3 bb, 2 K (L). Final score: White Sox 6, Rangers 2.
David Wells, Yankees, vs. Red Sox, May 23, 1998: 7 ip, 5 h, 3 r, 3 er, 1 bb, 5 K (W). Final score: Yankees 12, Red Sox 3.
David Cone, Yankees, vs. Indians, July 23, 1998: 4 ip, 6 h, 6 r, 2 er, 4 bb, 7 K (ND). Final score: Yankees 9, Indians 8.
Randy Johnson, Diamondbacks, vs. Marlins, May 23, 2004: 7 ip, 4 h, 2 r, 2 er, 1 bb, 5 K (W). Final score: Diamondbacks 4, Marlins 3.
Mark Buehrle, White Sox, vs. Twins, July 28, 2009: 6.1 ip, 5 h, 5 r, 5 er, 1 bb, 5 K (L). Final score: Twins 5, White Sox 3.
Dallas Braden, A’s, vs. Angels, May 14, 2010: 8 ip, 7 h, 4 r, 4 er, 1 bb, 5 K (L). Final score: Angels 4, A’s 0.
Roy Halladay, Phillies, vs. Padres, June 4, 2010: 7 ip, 10 h, 2 r, 2 er, 1 bb, 7 K (W). Final score: Phillies 3, Padres 2.
Philip Humber, White Sox, vs. Red Sox, April 26, 2012: 5 ip, 8 h, 9 r, 9 er, 3 bb, 5 K (L). Final score: Red Sox 10, White Sox 3.
Matt Cain, Giants, vs. Angels, June 18, 2012: 5 ip, 6 h, 3 r, 3 er, 4 bb, 4 K (W). Final score: Giants 5, Angels 3.
*Game occurred in season following perfect game.