In the New York-Penn League, perfect games appear with about the same regularity as Halley's Comet.
Entering the 2007 season, only one nine-inning perfect game -- by Erie's John Herbert on June 23, 1956 -- had ever been tossed in the nearly 80-year history of the venerable circuit. On July 15, 2007, Oneonta's Guillermo Moscoso single-handedly doubled that number by authoring perfecto number two against an outmatched Batavia Muckdogs lineup.
Moscoso's ultra-rare and extremely impressive outing made him an easy choice for MiLB.com's Class A Short-Season Single-Game Performance Award. After all, it's impossible to be better than perfect.
"That game was wild, just unbelievable," enthused Moscoso, a 23-year-old native of Venezuela who went 8-2 with a 2.37 ERA in 14 starts with the Tigers. "I'm in my fifth year as a pro, and that was the best day in my career so far."
Of course, only the most deluded of pitchers would take the mound expecting to fire a perfect game. Usually the goal is simply to notch a quality start, and that's all Moscoso was going for when he first climbed the hill on that Sunday evening in mid-July.
"For a while, the game was just like a normal game," said Moscoso. "My pitches were working good, I was changing speeds well, and they were swinging at the first pitch a lot. It wasn't until after the fifth inning that I realized I was throwing a perfect game."
Whatever pressure Moscoso felt as he went out to pitch the sixth inning was somewhat alleviated by the fact that, for the first time in the ballgame, he was working with a lead. In the bottom of the fifth, Christopher Carlson laced a two-run double to snap a scoreless tie, and Angel Flores drew a bases-loaded walk to increase the Tigers' advantage to 3-0.
"I felt much more comfortable after getting the lead," said Moscoso. "When you're in a tie ballgame, any one swing can make it so that you lose the game."
With the lead secure (the Tigers eventually tacked on three more runs in the seventh), the focus turned to Moscoso and his potential to make history.
"By the seventh inning, no one was saying anything to me in the dugout, and I wasn't saying anything to them," said Moscoso. "When I got out there in the eighth, all the fans were yelling after every pitch, and in the ninth everyone was standing."
In the tension-filled ninth inning, Moscoso retired Justin Roberson on a groundout to second baseman Justin Henry, then induced pinch-hitter David Carpenter to line out to shortstop Kody Kaiser. Ross Oeder came to the plate representing the Muckdogs' last hope, and Moscoso quickly ran the count to 1-2 on the Batavia shortstop.
Then, disaster nearly struck. Oeder popped up Moscoso's next offering into foul territory, but first baseman Carlson and second baseman Henry let the ball drop between them.
"They were both saying 'I got it, I got it,' but it dropped and everybody was like, 'Boooooo,'" recalled Moscoso. "But the count was still 1-2, and I knew I still had at least three pitches to work with. My next pitch was a fastball that was outside, and [Oeder] reached out at it and hit a slow roller to second. [Henry] threw him out and I jumped into the arms of the first baseman and then the catcher [Flores]. I felt like we had won the World Series -- it was just a dream come true."
While Moscoso was the obvious star of the evening, he's quick to acknowledge that a perfect game can only be the result of a stellar team effort.
"It's like you always read in the newspapers and magazines after a perfect game -- a pitcher needs his fielders to make great plays through the entire night," he said. "We had great plays made at shortstop and third base and in the outfield, and I have to give a lot of credit to [Flores]. Inning after inning, he knew what I had to throw and helped me pitch like it was just a normal game."
Moscoso's perfecto was the obvious highlight of a season in which he got back on track after several injury-marred campaigns. He is now attempting to build on his success by returning to his native country to play in the Venezuelan Winter League.
"If I could throw another 30 to 35 innings there, that would be great," he said. "In winter ball, you have guys from the big leagues, Triple-A and Double-A. For me to be able to compete with those guys is something that can really help me."