One immaculate swing by Josh Harrison on Wednesday erased nine innings of near-perfection by Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Rich Hill.
Harrison’s home run in the 10th inning was the only hit Hill allowed in the game. It lifted the Pirates to a deliciously improbable 1-0 victory.
“It’s insane how baseball works,” said Pirates starter Trevor Williams, who tossed eight shutout innings. “Baseball sucks at times. Baseball’s weird. It’s designed to break your heart.”
Williams paused and grinned.
“I’m so glad we hit that walk-off homer.”
Harrison is the first player in MLB history to break up a no-hitter in extra innings with a walk-off home run.
Over the first eight innings, Hill racked up 10 strikeouts and did not allow a baserunner. His bid for the 24th perfect game in MLB history was shattered in the ninth inning, when third baseman Logan Forsythe booted Jordy Mercer’s grounder for an error.
The perfect game was gone, but Hill still had not allowed a hit.
“You kinda felt we would scratch one (run) through, and it was kind of meant to happen,” Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes said. “Looks like it wasn’t, though. It doesn’t feel that great, not being able to scratch one in for Richie.”
Leading off the 10th, Harrison jacked an 88 mph fastball over the left-field wall. Curtis Granderson leaped and reached into the stands, but came up empty.
“When I hit it, I knew I didn’t get it all, but I knew I got enough,” Harrison said. “I knew it was a ball Granderson could get to. I was just hoping he didn’t rob it. When I saw him come down on the ground, I felt like his reaction was, ‘Aw, man, I just missed it.’ ”
In the fourth inning, Harrison tried to break up what was then a perfect game with a bunt. He popped it up, and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez made a fine sliding catch.
In the 10th, Harrison wanted something bigger than a dink single.
“It was my fourth time seeing (Hill), and his stuff wasn’t as sharp as it was in my first three at-bats,” Harrison said. “I felt I had him synced up pretty good, I got a pitch and didn’t miss it.”
Harrison was hunting a fastball — no surprise, considering 10 of the 11 pitches he saw from Hill were four-seamers. The last one was down in the zone but caught the middle of the plate.
“It was a bad pitch,” Hill said. “Late in the game like that, you need to make better pitches.”
Williams was not unhittable, but he matched zeros with Hill for eight innings. Williams gave up seven hits and four walks and struck out five.
“Williams pitched like a guy who’s got way more time in than he’s got,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “He pitched like an experienced starter.”
Williams is in the midst of his first full season in the majors. Hill, a 13-year veteran, has appeared in 239 games, including 112 starts. He has pitched for eight big league teams and the independent Long Island Ducks.
“I know the Cliff Notes of the Rich Hill story,” Hurdle said before the game. “It’s the kind of story that can get made into a movie someday.”
Hill was sharp from the start, working fast and controlling the strike zone. In the sixth, Hill quick-pitched Chris Stewart, who tapped into a ground out. As he jogged to the dugout, Stewart barked at Hill.
Second baseman Chase Utley went airborne to rob Josh Bell of a single in the eighth.
The game might’ve had a Hollywood ending for Hill if not for the excellence of Williams. The right-hander threw a career-high 114 pitches and was aided by spectacular defensive plays by Harrison and Mercer.
“It’s crazy,” Hurdle said. “We got one hit. What did they leave on, 11? It shows the beauty of the game, the things you can’t draw up beforehand.”
The Dodgers stranded 11 men on base by going 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position.
“I’m sad for Rich,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “You look at opportunities that a player has to have a chance at a no-hitter, and he gave himself every opportunity. I’m very excited for Rich because he threw the ball so well tonight but disappointed that he didn’t get that no-hitter.”
Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.