Major League Baseball
Baker Loses Perfect Game In 9th
MINNEAPOLIS - Scott Baker came within three outs of a perfect game and two outs of a no-hitter, falling short of history but leading the Minnesota Twins past the Kansas City Royals 5-0 in the second game of a doubleheader Friday night. Baker entered the ninth inning with a chance for just the 18th perfect game in major-league history. But with a Metrodome crowd of 24,986 cheering, he went to a 3-0 count leading off on John Buck. Buck took a strike before the next pitch went inside for ball four. Esteban German grounded into a forceout, and Mike Sweeney, activated from the disabled list between games, pinch hit and blooped a single to left-center for his first hit since June 16 - and his third in four career at-bats off Baker.The 25-year-old right-hander sensed immediately that the ball would fall in for a hit but recovered to get the one-hitter, retiring David DeJesus on a flyout and Mark Grudzielanek on a lineout. 'Unfortunately it didn't work out tonight, but it's still a great game, I can't complain,' Baker said. Baker struck out a career-high nine and threw 111 pitches in just his second complete game in 44 major-league starts. Gil Meche allowed just three runs and seven hits in seven innings, giving up a two-run single to Jason Bartlett in the third and a sacrifice fly to Justin Morneau in the fifth. Until the ninth, Baker went to a three-ball count just once. DeJesus worked the count full leading off the game, then flied out. Baker, who just a year ago was demoted to the minor leagues, almost didn't start this one. He returned to the Twins on Wednesday after spending time in Louisiana with his newborn son, Easton, and his wife. Easton was born five weeks premature on Aug. 24 and is doing fine. 'All I can say is when you have a child or something of that nature, it just puts things in perspective,' he said. Baker's only previous complete game in 43 major league starts was a three-hitter in a 1-0 loss at Detroit on July 1. The roof makes rainouts moot, but the Twins have played twice in one day at the Metrodome before. They scheduled a doubleheader in 2001 against the Athletics for promotional purposes.