PITTSBURGH (AP) — Nick Kingham waited a long, long time to make it to a major league mound. When he finally got there, the moment was nearly perfect.

Kingham started out better than any pitcher in more than a half-century, taking a perfect game into the seventh inning of his big league debut and leading the Pittsburgh Pirates over the St. Louis Cardinals 5-0 Sunday.

Kingham retired the first 20 batters before Paul DeJong singled down the left-field line with two outs in the seventh.

The Elias Sports Bureau said no pitcher in the Expansion Era — since 1961 — had taken a perfect game bid so far in his debut. Wayne Simpson of the Reds in 1970 and Ken Cloude of the Mariners in 1997 each set down their first 16 batters.

Once a top Pirates prospect, Kingham's path to the majors was interrupted by Tommy John surgery. The 26-year-old was 43-41 during nine seasons in the minors before getting called up from Triple-A Indianapolis before the game for a spot start.

Kingham joined Johnny Cueto in 2008 as the only pitchers in the last 100 years to give up one hit, strike out at least nine and walk none in his debut. Cueto started out his career with five perfect innings.

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