Pirates' Nick Kingham toys with perfect game in MLB debut

PITTSBURGH -- Nick Kingham accomplished something Sunday that only one major league pitcher had achieved in the past century.

In his big league debut, Kingham carried a perfect game into the seventh inning to lead the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 5-0 win over the St. Louis Cardinals. He joined Johnny Cueto in 2008 as the only pitchers in the past 100 years with one hit allowed, at least nine strikeouts and no walks in their debuts.

"That's how you plan it up -- not to let anybody on," Kingham said. "It's incredible how it happened. Just kind of starting from the get-go, it went well. ... It's corny, but it took everybody. I'm really fortunate and really happy about it."

The 26-year-old rookie right-hander retired 20 straight batters before Paul DeJong singled down the left-field line with two out in the seventh.

Kingham's 20 straight batters retired are the most by a player in his MLB debut in the Expansion Era (since 1961). The previous longest streak in that span was 16, by Wayne Simpson on April 9, 1970, and Ken Cloude on August 9, 1997, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

The home crowd responded with an ovation before Kingham retired Marcell Ozuna. The fans stood and cheered while Kingham walked off the field and waved. He finished with nine strikeouts on 98 pitches, 72 for strikes.

More than the numbers, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle was pleased with Kingham's poise.

"It was his next start. Watching him, it was just his next start," Hurdle said. "It had to be more than that. He compartmentalized very well."

Kingham, who was drafted by Pittsburgh in the fourth round of the 2010 draft out of Sierra Vista High School in Las Vegas, got some love from fellow Las Vegan Bryce Harper.

Kingham underwent Tommy John surgery in May 2015, and that caused him to miss most of the 2015 and 2016 seasons.

In four starts with Indianapolis this season, Kingham was 2-1 with a 1.59 ERA.

Elias Diaz went 3-for-4 with three singles and two RBIs as the Pirates won their fifth straight game and completed a three-game sweep of the Cardinals hours after Kingham was recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis for a spot start.

Right-hander Luke Weaver (2-2) took the loss after allowing four runs on six hits with six strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings. He was impressed with Kingham's performance but said he didn't feel any added pressure.

"He's obviously having a good game, so you have to stay with him and put up the zeros just like you normally would," Weaver said. "You just try to put that to the side and let him do what he's doing and focus on the task at hand. It was just a well-pitched ballgame from him."

Weaver pitched five scoreless before walking the bases loaded with one out in the sixth.

Diaz singled down the right-field line, scoring Starling Marte and Josh Bell for a 2-0 lead. Right-handed reliever Jordan Hicks replaced Weaver before Colin Moran extended the Pirates' lead to 3-0 with an RBI single to center that drove in Corey Dickerson from third.

"Luke was good. Very good," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "Did everything we needed him to do. Just unfortunate in the sixth, an infield single and bloop single. We're in trouble there. Tried to pitch around, which is smart. Tried to give us a chance, and [Diaz] came through with the big hit."

Hicks hit Adam Frazier with the bases loaded, giving Pittsburgh a 4-0 lead after six, and David Freese had a pinch-hit RBI single in the eighth to make it 5-0.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.