Mariners’ Mike Leake falls three outs short of perfect game




Mike Leake wasn’t going to be on the wrong side of history again.

The Seattle Mariners right-hander went from being the losing pitcher in the Los Angeles Angels no-hitter on July 12, to nearly making history Friday night by taking a perfect game bid into the ninth inning in his team’s 10-0 win against the same Angels squad.

Leake was just three outs away from joining elite company when Angels rookie Luis Rengifo led off the ninth inning with a clean single. Only 23 pitchers have thrown a perfect game in Major League Baseball history. Ironically, two of the last three had come at T-Mobile Park in Seattle, which was the site of Friday’s close call.

Mariners’ right-hander Mike Leake bounced back from worst career start to throw near perfect game against the Angels. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Felix Hernandez authored MLB’s most recent perfect game on Aug. 15, 2012 against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Leake avenges worst career outing

What a difference a week makes.

In that same outing against the Angels seven days ago in Anaheim, Leake couldn’t make it through the first inning. He was removed after allowing seven runs (four earned) and eight hits in 2/3 of an inning. It was the worst start of his 10-year MLB career.

As noted, the Angels would go on to throw a combined no-hitter as they celebrated the life of Tyler Skaggs in their first home game since his death on July 1.

On Friday, it was Leake’s turn to spin a gem. The 31-year-old veteran retired the first 24 batters he faced on just 76 pitches. After allowing a single and four-pitch walk to Kevan Smith, Leake bounced back to retire the next three batters to complete only his second career shutout in 284 starts and to join another elite group.

Leake finished in fine fashion, too, striking out Mike Trout on his 98th pitch.

Boosts trade value

During a week when starting pitching trade candidates like Madison Bumgarner, Marcus Stroman and Noah Syndergaard have all shined, it was Leake who shined brightest.

Leake, who will turn 32 in November, is clearly not at the same level as those pitchers. But he’s an intriguing option for teams not looking to part with elite prospects. He’s under contract through 2020 (he’ll be owed $11 million) and has a mutual $18 million option for 2021. Assuming that’s not exercised, he won’t be too costly.

The issue is consistency. We can’t imagine two starts that would exemplify that more than Leake’s last two. Overall, he owns a 4.27 ERA through 20 starts this season. Teams could certainly do worse when looking for a fourth or fifth starter.

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