Pittsburgh Pirates rookie Nick Kingham was just looking to prove he could cut it in the majors during his big-league debut. It’s fair to say he did a lot more than that during his first major-league start.
Kingham retired the first 20 batters he faced. He carried a perfect game into the seventh inning against the St. Louis Cardinals. That’s the longest a rookie pitcher has gone without putting a man on base in his debut since at least 1961.
Elias would only confirm Kingham set the 1961-present record. I can't find a longer one (most batters retired to begin pitcher's first MLB game) before that, but if anyone does please @ me.
— keithlaw (@keithlaw) April 29, 2018
As Keith Law’s tweet says, it’s possible Kingham’s record goes back further. But the Elias Sports Bureau could only confirm 1961 to the present. They are saying Kingham set the record in the expansion era.
As you might expect, Kingham was fantastic in his major-league debut. He gave up just one hit over seven innings. The 26-year-old struck out nine batters and did not allow a walk. After 6 2/3 perfect innings, Paul DeJong singled to break up Kingham’s perfect game and no-hitter.
The Pirates would go on to win the contest 5-0. Kingham’s excellent start was recognized by his teammates with a mustard shower.
It appears Nick Kingham has been drenched with mustard(?) and escorted to the showers pic.twitter.com/yV1yx5kfHn
— Brian McElhinny (@rtjr) April 29, 2018
Who is Nick Kingham? Casual baseball fans might not know him, but those who pay attention to top prospect lists might be familiar with the name. Kingham appeared on nearly ever major top prospect list in either 2014 or 2015.
He wasn’t considered an elite prospect, but a solid contributor. Kingham topped out as the 64th best prospect in baseball prior to the 2014 season, according to Baseball America.
Injuries prevented him from appearing on those lists in recent years. Kingham underwent Tommy John surgery in 2015. He missed most of that season and much of 2016 while recovering. Even in 2017, his season debut was pushed back due to an ankle injury. Kingham got off to a hot start in four games at Triple-A in 2018, leading to his call-up.
Following his excellent debut, you can bet Kingham will get another opportunity to build on his impressive performance. He’s already staying with the club as it travels to Washington, D.C. for the next series.
Expecting a repeat performance would be foolish, but if Kingham can prove to be a useful part of the rotation going forward, the Pirates will be pretty satisfied with that.
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