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Domingo Germán authors 24th perfecto in history

Germán’s dance with the sublime on a June night in Oakland etches his place in the history books.

MLB: New York Yankees at Oakland Athletics Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Yankees pitcher Domingo Germán has thrown the 24th perfect game in MLB history.

There are precious few opportunities at perfection in sport. It’s an intriguing paradox in an industry characterized by perfectionists seeking always to reach that higher level, but almost never afforded the chance to experience the sublime. But tonight, on one of the unlikeliest of nights, we all got to share in a moment of immaculate immortality.

Ever since my former coworker, mentor, and friend Joshua Diemert fulfilled a goal of recapping a no-hitter, I wanted to join him in the privilege of doing so. He has had more influence than anyone on the way that I understand, analyze, and appreciate the game of baseball, so this one’s for you, Josh.

Improbable does not begin to describe the chances of a Domingo Germán perfect game entering tonight’s contest. The 30-year-old right-hander had given up 17 runs on 15 hits in his previous two starts—including one that ranked among the worst in franchise history—and has never really been known for his ability to keep the base paths clear. Throw on top his 10-game suspension for sticky fingers and the fact he had to fight for a rotation spot out of spring training and the odds of the feat were slim to say the least.

In fact, given the way things have been going for the Yankees since Aaron Judge landed on the IL with a toe sprain, perfection is likely the last word one would associate with the organization and certainly the last thing on my mind as I steeled myself for another three-ish hours of Yankees baseball, mood already dampened by the anemic performance in the series opener. The Bombers have certainly been a tough watch in June, but as Joe Posnanski put it in such elegant concision, “Baseball is boring. Until it isn’t.”

From the very first pitch it was apparent that the curveball would be a weapon for Germán today. He had effortless command to all four quadrants of the zone as well as below it and it seemed to have extra late break relative to previous starts. Indeed, a curveball-heavy diet racked up a pair of strikeouts to start his outing on a positive trajectory.

A 14-pitch second followed by a ten-pitch third certainly helped his cause. At that point it was still a normal outing, and with the opposing pitcher also dealing, some efficient early innings attempting to induce weak contact could save pitches for what was threatening to turn into a pitchers’ duel.

After Giancarlo Stanton opened the scoring with a towering solo home run in the fourth, Germán appeared to hit another gear, seeming determined to strikeout every batter he faced. He darn near accomplished the feat, tallying a pair of strikeouts in the fourth whiffing Ryan Noda and Brent Rooker on a pair of filthy curveballs to close out the frame. We all know the cliched truism that every perfect game is saved by a sparkling defensive play, and Anthony Rizzo obliged with a diving gem to steal the second out of the fifth. Perhaps invigorated by the play behind him, Germán seemed to tap into an extra reserve of execution, and the Oakland hitters never really stood a chance from there.

I’m always tickled by the dance we do online whenever there is a perfecto or no-hit bid on the line. You probably start to take notice of the mounting zeroes around the fourth and your eyebrows might raise with and added donut after the fifth. Six perfect innings is the generally agreed-upon, unwritten cutoff for taking the bid seriously and Germán stamped an exclamation mark on the frame, striking out Shea Langeliers and Esteruy Ruiz on another pair of devastating curveballs.

It was also amusing to see the way the tide of attention turned as the contest unfolded. All eyes were on the pitchers as they traded zeroes early. Then focus shifted to the Yankees offense as they experienced a breakout so antithetical to their poor play in June that it felt surreal watching the floodgates open. New York ended up scoring six in the fifth with Oakland failing to retire any of the first seven batters in the frame. Sears gave way to an equally-hapless Shintaro Fujinami, and by the time the dust settled the Yankees had a 7-0 lead with their own starter in full command of the opposing lineup.

The seventh and eighth innings seemed to fly by, Germán practically striding off the mound toward his own dugout in the time it took to flip between the game, Twitter, and the gameday app. He needed just eight and eleven pitches respectively to dispatch the A’s hitters, and while the curveball remained the primary weapon, Germán mixed in some sneakily well-located changeups in on righties to either induce a whiff or weak contact. He gave us all a bit of a scare running the count to 3-1 with two outs in the eighth, but a perfectly-executed curveball low and away got Jonah Bride to ground out.

I’ll admit it was a bit eerie to see the parallels between this start and Corey Kluber’s no-hitter in 2021. Both pitchers rode their curveballs to the history books. Mirroring Kluber’s command of the pitch two years ago, I can recount all of three curveballs where Germán missed his spot. He threw it for strikes and for chase, racking up 12 whiffs on 32 swings en route to eight of his nine strikeouts coming on the bender.

The Bombers added perhaps the three most immediately-forgotten runs of their season in the ninth, giving them their first double-digit scoring effort since the end of May. On one hand, this Oakland pitching staff may prove to be just the panacea that the ailing Yankees offense needs to get on track, yet even their eleven run outburst was a distant consideration to what we were witnessing.

Enter the ninth innings and real heart-in-mouth territory. Thankfully, Germán and the Oakland hitters had no intention of prolonging the success, Aledmys Díaz grounding out on the second pitch before Langeliers and Ruiz went up hacking at the first pitch, flying out and grounding out respectively to seal immortality for the Yankees starter.

To see the unbridled joy on his teammates faces and to hear the relief and sense of accomplishment in Germán’s voice in the postgame represent the emotional human moments that keep us coming back to sports.

When the Yankees were drawing up their strategy over the winter, having just signed the unequivocal ace of the free agent market Carlos Rodón to a nine-figure deal, Germán hardly could’ve factored into the rotation plans, seemingly slated for a long man role who could spot you a start. But then we learned Frankie Montas did in fact require shoulder surgery. And then Rodón went down first with a forearm strain followed by a back ailment. And then Luis Severino wouldn’t make his first start until the third week of May. What easily could have been a season hugging the peripheries for Germán turned into the 24th perfect game in MLB history. That’s baseball, Suzyn.

Expectations could scarcely have been lower entering tonight’s contest. Between the West Coast start time, the Athletics being, well, the Athletics, and the way the Yankees have been trending, you could have been forgiven for not even tuning in. Nine innings later and Germán penned the first perfect game since King Félix in 2012, joining the ranks of one of the most elite clubs in baseball alongside Don Larsen, David Wells, and David Cone as the four to do so in pinstripes. With that, I’d like to sign off by saying what a privilege it’s been to recap the first perfect game in PSA history, a community I feel so honored to be a part of.

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