Galarraga perfect in Tigers' eyes
Teammates pick righty up after missed call averts history
DETROIT -- To the Tigers, starting pitcher Armando Galarraga threw a perfect game on Wednesday. Actually, to them, Galarraga did even better than that -- he retired 28 consecutive batters.
The Tigers' No. 5 starter was certainly robbed of a perfect game in Detroit's 3-0 win over the Indians, but his teammates didn't treat it that way. Instead, the team celebrated by greeting Galarraga with a beer shower when he returned to the clubhouse. It wasn't easy, but the Tigers did their best to forget about the blown call that would have led to the first perfect game in the history of the organization.
"We came in here as a team, and we gave him a heck of a ride," said catcher Gerald Laird, who had the night off as Alex Avila was behind the plate. "In our eyes, he threw a perfect game tonight. He went out there, pounded the zone, and it was just fun to watch. At one point, I kept looking up and I'm like, 'Oh my God.' And then you see the sixth, seventh, eighth inning come up, play after play, and you're like, 'Wow, this could happen right now.' In my eyes, and I know all 25 guys in this clubhouse and the coaches, he threw a perfect game tonight. I know it's not going to go down as one, but when I tell stories, I'm going to say I've been a part of one. He had a heck of a performance tonight."
It was smiles all around, well, until the team gathered around a television and watched the replay of the missed call that spoiled Galarraga's perfect game one out short. There were moans and groans aplenty when Jason Donald was ruled safe at first despite evidence to the contrary.
It would have been easier for the Tigers to cope if the call would have been correct. But even first-base umpire Jim Joyce admitted he made a mistake after the game.
Before Joyce could even make his safe call, several Tigers took two or three steps towards Galarraga to start celebrating the 21st perfect game in the history of baseball.
"Oh yeah, I was running in," center fielder Austin Jackson said. "I was excited, and then [Joyce] called [Donald] safe. But that's the game. He's human. He made a mistake, seeing it clearly from the replay. But it's baseball. It happens like that."
"I went to the ground," third baseman Brandon Inge said of his reaction after the errant call. "I literally went to the ground. I had my hands up in the air and then I went to the ground, without a doubt. Unbelievable."
Tempers flared briefly after Galarraga retired the very next batter, Trevor Crowe, to officially end the game. Several Tigers ran out of the dugout and adamantly argued the call with Joyce.
"I think it's just more the heat of the moment," said Laird, who was one of the first to get to Joyce. "That's why we were getting on him. You just want it so bad, something of that caliber for your teammate. To be able to say you were a part of it as a teammate, to be part of a perfect game, is remarkable. And I think that's all it was, when guys were getting on him. We were just frustrated. We know their job's hard. But he's our teammate and we back him and we feel bad for him. Jimmy, when he looks at the replay, nobody's going to feel as bad as him. This guy's a quality umpire, and I have all the respect in the world for him. He made a bad call tonight."
In the end, it was just about the Tigers sticking up for their teammate. Galarraga left it all out on the field and was perfect. Replay confirmed it, though it won't be officially logged that way.
"There were a lot of tempers, but that's to be expected," Inge said. "When you have a family of guys that is so close-knit like this group of guys are, you know there's going to be some tempers flaring. We were pretty upset. But we pulled it together and made sure it was about Armando. When he got in here, we gave him a little beer shower just to celebrate for him. He did a great job. Can't take that away from him."
Avila said he didn't string together the fact that Galarraga was perfect until about the seventh inning, when he looked up at the scoreboard. Avila said it was by far the best game he'd caught, and he was first on the scene to congratulate Galarraga after he retired the 28th batter.
"I just told him I was very proud of him," Avila said. "I probably won't sleep at all tonight."
Galarraga has been through a lot in his time with the Tigers. Last year, he posted a 6-10 record with a 5.64 ERA in 25 starts and was relegated to bullpen duties in September. This season, Galarraga sported a 4-2 record with a 3.92 ERA for Triple-A Toledo before being called up on May 16. Over two starts and one relief appearance, Galarraga went 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA.
He was an unlikely candidate to throw a perfect game. That made it even more thrilling.
"Tonight was something special," outfielder Johnny Damon said. "Armando, a guy who even didn't break camp with us, then he goes out and throws the ball like he did, especially after all this time off. He was just brilliant."
One-hitters just don't carry the same prestige as a perfect game. But while the history books will suggest otherwise, Galarraga and the Tigers will always remember being a part of a perfect game.
"We celebrate," Galarraga said. "I believe I got it. I said before, I got a perfect game. I'm going to show my son. Maybe it's not in the book, but I'm tell my son, 'One time I got a perfect game.' I'll show him the CD."
Alex DiFilippo is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.