So you’re the defending champs of the AL Central. But your postseason bid was ended by the AL pennant winners – and they’re in town for a four-game home stand.
In all of baseball, the Rays are first in walks, third in OBP and third in runs scored. Nonetheless, you take two out of the first three games against them, and if not for the rare misstep of your beloved mayonnaise-stained closer, you would have swept those.
The early season was grim. You’ve only been over .500 for a couple of weeks. Your ace is coming up for the 4th and final game of the series. If you win, and the Mariners beat the Tigers, you’re tied for the division lead for the first time since May 1st.
Today’s home plate ump, Eric Cooper, is the one who was on plate duty in April 2007, the last time Mark Buehrle threw a 2-hour 3-minute no-no against Texas.
a) put the same Buehrle/Pierzynski battery out there that took you to the World Series in 2005?
b) send your backup receiver Ramon Castro to catch his first Mark Buehrle game?
You probably answered a). See, that’s why you’re you and Ozzie Guillen is Ozzie Guillen. You might not have let the 18th perfect game in MLB history happen.
The Josh Fields grand slam in the 2nd off a Scott Kazimir (L 4-6 6IP, 5H, 5ER, 3BB 5K) fastball only hinted to the 28,036 weekday attendance just what lay in store.
The Buehrle / Castro axis kept fastballs largely off the menu, presenting a baroque assortment of sliders, changes and hooks that had Bartlett, Upton, and Kapler so off-balance they were one-handedly hacking at whatever they could see by the 7th. Carl Crawford, .480 lifetime against Buehrle (W, 11-3, 9IP, 0H, 6K, 0BB) was pitched into contact three times with changes following sliders – all for naught. If they weren’t weak dribblers or line shots right to Beckham, they were safely in Castro’s glove batter after batter.
The gutsy performance produced plenty of contact but not a single tough play- until the 9th inning.
Ozzie pulled Scott Podsednik for Dewayne Wise in center, and Buehrle faced Gabe Kapler. Rays skipper Joe Maddon never put on the bunt. Kapler fouled off a couple before he sent a dead inside heater deep to left center.
28,036 hearts stopped. One heart didn’t.
Wise got on his fresh legs and charged for the wall. He was taxed. His neck was craned. But had the look and he had the jump. At the Billy Pierce portrait the backup fielder ran out of ballpark at full stride. Kapler’s hit was headed over the yellow line. Gravity would no longer do.
The leap and stretch was the culmination of a career, and a callback of sorts. Wise had been on duty for baseball’s last perfect game, Randy Johnson’s 2004 outing in Atlanta, when Wise had been a Brave. The timing was impeccable. Kapler’s bomb disappeared in Wise’s mitt as the defenseman sailed into the wall at full speed. The collision and the landing jarred the ball loose, and Wise juggled it as he tumbled to the ground. And held it.
Hawk Harrelson’s TV booth screams were reportedly so loud as to be audible through the next-door radio booth microphones. Indeed, the folksy announcer was stunned right into a rare stretch of plain, comprehensible English, proclaiming the catch “One of the greatest I have ever seen in fifty years of this game.”
A swinging punchout of Michael Hernandez and a 6-3 dribbler from Jason Bartlett sealed the deal. Mark Buehrle had handed in the first White Sox perfect game since Charles Robinson in 1922 — and his second 2-hour 3-minute no hitter in three seasons.
And the Tigers lost.
First place baseball has returned to Chicago.