Humber, Colon: Great pitching performances in same week


Philip Humber's perfect game is front-page worthy, but is anyone talking about Bartolo Colon's record-setting performance? (Elaine Thompson/AP)

News that Philip Humber threw a perfect game at the Seattle Mariners was unexpected, to say the least. Humber’s career record before the perfect game was 11-10, with 18 of his 21 career decisions coming last year with the White Sox.  After Saturday’s game, though, he can say something that Nolan Ryan — for all of his career no-hitters — cannot say. He retired all 27 batters to face him in a nine-inning game.

As impressive as throwing a perfect game is, it has been done before. And it’s been done quite a few times in recent years: Dallas Braden, Mark Buehrle, Randy Johnson, and Roy Halladay have all done it in recent years. And a blown umpire’s call was all that kept Armando Galarraga from getting there, too. In fact, there have been more perfect games in the last 10 years than there were in the 1910s through the 1950s combined. If baseball followed a weather pattern, we’re now in the monsoon season for perfect games.

There was another impressive pitching performance this week. It was mind-boggling, in fact. But since it didn’t involve getting outs, it will not be recorded in history, and showcased in Cooperstown, the way Humber’s will be. But Bartolo Colon‘s performance against the Los Angeles Angels is still worthy of being passed down from one generation to the next.

What Colon did was throw 38 consecutive strikes to Angels hitters. He didn’t just beat the previous known record — 30 strikes in a row, thrown by Tim Wakefield in 1998 — he shattered it. Baseball didn’t keep track of this statistic before 1988, and it’s easy to imagine longer streaks in days gone by. What we have, though, is a record that won’t be broken anytime soon.

Watching those 38 strikes, it didn’t feel like history was being made. Angels batters hit the ball out of play, and  got a couple of basehits along they way. But when the bat makes contact with the ball, it’s considered a strike. Colon had the help of Angels hitters on this level. But hats off to the announcers, who picked up on it and had some fun with it, calling strikes as the pitch was in mid-air, a la Frank Drebin.

It seemed clear the fans had no idea of what was going on, and why would they? The internal pitch count isn’t very important to the outcome of the game. And the Angels were getting good swings at the ball, too. It’s entirely possible that fans at the game, when asked about it by a friend or a colleague, might have said something like “Colon was great, but the game wasn’t all that special.”

Years from now, Colon’s strike streak will probably only be remembered when someone comes along to break it. When I informed a fellow baseball junkie of Colon’s feat,  and he had no idea it had happened, or that Wakefield had held the previous record. He did point out that a knuckleballer like Wakefield throwing 30 strikes in a row is almost impossible to imagine.

Humber’s perfect game will be recorded as one of the highlights of this season, regardless of what else happens on the field between now and October. Colon’s feat won’t have the same honor, but it still deserves a special mention.

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