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Max Scherzer no-hits Pirates as Jose Tabata becomes baseball's latest villain

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

I'm not sure exactly how to approach a recap for a game like this. A no-hitter is clearly an historic event, and a perfect game is an even more historic one, but no-hitters and perfect games aren't nearly as significant for the teams they're happening to as for the teams they're happening for.

Remember when Homer Bailey no-hit the Pirates back in 2012? I do, kind of. It's probably lost to Pirates history more than it should be, because it happened when the Bucs were in full collapse mode, and most fans had stopped caring long before. But even if that hadn't been the case, I'm not sure anyone would have worried about it too much. We're living through an era dominated by pitchers. No-hitters happen. I'm sorry we haven't gotten to see Gerrit Cole or some other Pirates pitcher throw one recently, but at some point in the next five years or so, we probably will, and when we do, I expect it will be ecstasy for us an NBD for fans of the Pirates' opponents. We'll probably see the Pirates get no-hit again in that time frame, too.

So: Max Scherzer no-hit the Pirates today. That's great for him, but it's NBD for the Pirates. It doesn't mean anything, and there's nothing to do with reactions like this but chuckle at them.

The Pirates are good. Not just good. They're one of the best teams in baseball. Even Siri knows it. Today doesn't change that. What it reflects, mostly, is that Scherzer is a very, very good pitcher who was already in the best season of his career, and someone as dominant as Scherzer is a no-hitter waiting to happen. Today, he struck out 10 and walked none, and in fact he rarely even did something as human as missing the strike zone, throwing 82 strikes in his 106 pitches. He's great. The Pirates' offense didn't have a great day. Whatever.

Let's talk about this Jose Tabata thing, though. Tabata entered to pinch-hit with two outs in the ninth and a perfect game on the line. Scherzer threw a slider inside, and Tabata leaned down to let it hit him in the left elbow -- or, more accurately, the giant pad on his left elbow.

I don't want to be too hard on Tabata here. He plainly didn't have time to think through the ramifications of allowing himself to get hit by a pitch, and he was surely operating pretty much purely on muscle memory. And it's not Tabata's job to give Scherzer a perfect game -- in fact, his job is the opposite of that. Were this a 2-0 game, I'd be all for what he did. In 2001, Padres catcher Ben Davis bunted for a single in a 2-0 game in the eighth as Curt Schilling was going for a perfect game. That sparked a debate within baseball, but I saw no problem with it. Davis' job was to help the Padres win, not to help Curt Schilling.

This wasn't a 2-0 game, however. Francisco Liriano had hung in there against Scherzer for the first several innings, giving up only a home run to Bryce Harper, but then he allowed several runs in the sixth, and the game became a blowout.

Leaning into an HBP with two outs in the ninth and a 6-0 score with a perfect game on the line ... it's bad. And again, as Pat implies, suggesting Tabata had agency here probably gives him a lot of credit he doesn't deserve. If he had time to think this through before it happened, I'm sure he wouldn't have done it. But he should probably apologize for it. He's not supposed to help the Nats do something historic, but he's also supposed to make an effort to get out of the way of an inside pitch, not to get in its way.

At the same time, I feel bad for Tabata. He's a mediocre player in the midst of what's likely to be a marginal career. This moment, more than anything, is what he's likely to be remembered for. He'll probably be seen as a villain the rest of his life. Because of him, Scherzer had to settle for a no-hitter, rather than a perfect game, and totally needlessly. The no-hitter doesn't bother me in the slightest, but what Tabata did isn't the kind of thing I want the Pirates to be known for.