When 26-year-old Nick Kingham took the mound for the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday, he did so with major stakes residing overhead. In addition to making his big-league debut, he was pitching to keep the Pirates in first place, ahead of a trio of teams a half game back, including Sunday's opponent, the Cardinals.
Yet Kingham didn't seem to find that pressure daunting enough. Instead, he went ahead and made everyone aware of his presence by taking a perfect game into the seventh inning.
Kingham retired the first 20 batters he faced before allowing a ground ball single down the left-field line to Cardinals shortstop Paul DeJong. Just like that, the perfecto bid was over.
Kingham...with a K.#WelcometotheShow pic.twitter.com/ALptp18dxm— Pirates (@Pirates) April 29, 2018
Still, Kingham found his way out of the frame, finishing his debut with seven shutout innings and nine strikeouts on 98 pitches. Kingham sat in the low-90s, topping out at 94 mph. He induced 17 whiffs on the game, with 12 of those coming on his slider. Four others came on fastball variations. He departed with the Pirates up 4-0. Pittsburgh would go on to pick up a 5-0 win and a series sweep.
Had Kingham been able to pull off the perfect game, it would've marked the first involving the Pirates, for or against. Additionally, it would've marked the first time the Cardinals were involved on either side, either. Both teams have been involved in no-hitters -- the Pirates were victimized by Max Scherzer in 2015 and last threw one in 1997. The Cardinals, meanwhile, were downed by Johan Santana in 2012, though they haven't thrown one since Bud Smith in 2001.
No pitcher has ever thrown a no-hitter or perfect game in their big-league debut.