SAN FRANCISCO--It has been nearly a year since Yusmeiro Petit came within a strike of becoming the 24th pitcher in major league history to throw a perfect game. In the aftermath of that disappointment, Petit didn't pout or wonder why the baseball gods held him back. He simply expressed gratitude for the opportunity to have such a magical night.
The game rewarded that faith, and now Petit stands alone in the record book. His eighth out in Thursday's 4-1 win over the Colorado Rockies was his 46th straight overall, breaking Mark Buehrle's MLB record.
Petit doesn't have a perfect game on his resume, but this feat might be even better. Over two starts and six relief appearances from July 22 through Thursday, Petit pitched the equivalent of a perfect game plus 19 additional outs. He took the mound at AT&T Park with 38 straight already in the books, and thought briefly of Arizona pinch hitter Eric Chavez's single that just barely eluded right fielder Hunter Pence last Sept. 6.
"This is not going to happen to me again," Petit said as he stood on the mound.
Petit felt more relaxed this time around, even though he had five days to think about another shot at history. He has been dominant for a month, but it wasn't until a 41/3-inning stint in Washington last Saturday that Petit realized the roll he was on.
What Petit was chasing had never been done before, but it wasn't a daunting challenge, not for a pitcher who has overcome so much. The Giants took a flyer on Petit before the 2012 season because Jose Alguacil, an instructor in the organization, raved about the veteran right-hander's success in the Venezuelan Winter League. Petit was so lightly regarded that at the age of 27 he spent his first spring with the Giants toiling away in minor league camp. Before finally breaking through late last season, Petit cleared waivers on two separate occasions.
He has found permanence this year as a long reliever and spot starter, an invaluable Swiss army knife for manager Bruce Bochy. Petit has been dominant out of the bullpen, but it still took a month's worth of Tim Lincecum's struggles to get him back in the rotation.
In the meantime, Petit was dominating like no other pitcher in baseball. The incredible streak started innocuously on July 22, when taking the ball in place of the injured Matt Cain, Petit gave up five runs in five innings against Philadelphia. Grady Sizemore's grounder back to the mound ended his day but started the streak.
Moved back to the bullpen after the acquisition of Jake Peavy, Petit retired six Dodgers on July 26. Two days later he set down six Pirates in order. He pitched a perfect inning in Milwaukee on Aug. 7 and another in Kansas City three days after that. When the Giants won their protest of a rained-out game in Chicago, Petit was tabbed to pick up where Ryan Vogelsong left off. He struck out five in two innings Aug. 19. Still, the streak went unnoticed. That would change four days later in Washington.
Petit entered for a shaky Lincecum and retired 13 straight. Jayson Werth, Ian Desmond and Anthony Rendon were among his five strikeout victims. It was that day that Petit and teammates started to take note of what was happening.
"It's really incredible if you think about it," Bochy said, smiling wide. "This game has been played a long time. That's quite a record."
Petit attacked it Thursday, getting three quick outs in the first to tie Jim Barr's franchise and National League record. Around him, teammates had varying degrees of knowledge about what was going on. The dugout rules are clear about how to treat a pitcher working on a perfect game, but there's no hard and fast way to handle a perfect run that lasts 38 days.
"I knew what was happening, but I didn't know exactly how far away he was," second baseman Joe Panik said. "And I certainly wasn't going to ask."
All over the field, teammates reacted differently. In the dugout, some counted down to Buehrle's mark, but in left field, Gregor Blanco pushed the streak out of his mind. Blanco's diving catch helped clinch Cain's perfect game in 2012, and on this day he provided with the bat, crushing a two-run homer to give Petit an early cushion.
The record front and center in his mind, Petit marched toward 46. Baseball has a way of adding flair to unforgettable moments, and so in the third, Petit was set to face former Fresno Grizzlies teammates Jackson Williams and Charlie Culberson. He struck out both on curveballs, reaching a previously untouched mark.
"I think it's a reward for all the work I put into pitching," Petit said through a translator. "I thank God for giving me another opportunity."
The streak that sneaked up on baseball ended in a flash. Opposing pitcher Jordan Lyles followed the record-setting strikeout with a double to left. Petit threw 191 pitches over eight appearances during the streak, retiring 42 different players in six parks. He struck out 21, got 17 outs in the air and eight on the ground.
By doing something no pitcher has ever done, Petit also did more than enough to keep a firm grip on a rotation spot. Bochy, fresh off a clubhouse champagne toast, wouldn't fully commit to Petit making another start in place of Lincecum, but there wasn't much parsing needed.
"That's a pretty good effort," he said. "We'll talk about it, but it's hard to change that with the job he did."
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