Lady Luck and history were not on the Los Angeles Dodgers side on Wednesday. If they were, we’d be talking about a Rich Hill pitching performance that cemented his own place in history, rather than a heart-breaking loss that allowed Pittsburgh’s Josh Harrison to redefine it.
And to tell Hill’s tale accurately, we couldn’t omit the brilliant play from Chase Ultey that will now go overlooked in history, but for a few dramatic moments helped to preserve Hill’s perfect status.
It happened leading off the eighth inning. To that point, Hill had retired all 21 Pirates he’d faced. Then Josh Bell, who thought he’d reached with an infield single in the second inning before replay overturned it, hit a rope that was ticketed to right field.
Just like that, the perfect game appeared over.
Then, just as quickly, the 38-year-old Utley lunged to his right to make an incredible full-extension catch.
Yes, he was very serious about having his pitcher’s back.
Utley’s not the athlete or the defender he once was, but few are 15 years deep into a big league career. Still, he always seems to know where to be and when to be there, which is why he’s still a big part of baseball’s best team.
His veteran instincts and his willingness to sell out nearly changed the way we’ll read history. If the Dodgers offense had managed to score a single run during regulation on Wednesday night, Utley’s gem would have been considered among the very best that helped to preserve a no-hitter or perfect game.
As it is, it’s impossible to not appreciate the effort, and it would feel wrong to not acknowledge how remarkable it was or how close it came to rewriting the story of easily the most fascinating game we’ve seen all season.
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