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Buehrle's perfect game a dazzling performance
By Scot Gregor | Daily Herald Staff

White Sox starter Mark Buehrle, left, is embraced by teammates including catcher Ramon Castro after throwing a perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays in a baseball game.

 

Associated Press

White Sox starter Mark Buehrle in the first inning against Tampa Bay.

 

Associated Press

White Sox's Josh Fields celebrates after hitting a grand slam against the Tampa Bay Rays during the second inning of a baseball game, Thursday.

 

Associated Press

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Published: 7/23/2009 2:59 PM | Updated: 7/23/2009 8:37 PM

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Mark Buehrle has often been called the perfect teammate.

And the White Sox' 30-year-old lefty is a near perfect pitching machine, wasting little time or effort when he's on the mound.

See where this is going?

At U.S. Cellular Field on Thursday afternoon, Buehrle became the 18th pitcher in major-league history to throw a perfect game - although it took a sensational catch by center fielder Dewayne Wise in the ninth inning to preserve the feat.

Throwing 116 pitches against the Tampa Bay Rays - a remarkable 76 for strikes - Buehrle notched his second career no-hitter in the Sox' 5-0 victory.

"I keep on saying I'm never going to say never in this game because I've said it plenty of times and I've done a lot of stuff I never thought I'd do," Buehrle said after taking a congratulatory phone call from President/White Sox fan Barack Obama.

"But this wasn't even thought of in the back of my mind, throwing a perfect game, because I didn't think it would ever happen."

Gabe Kapler appeared to end the bid leading off the ninth inning when he hammered a 2-2 pitch to center field.

But Wise, who had just entered the game as a defensive replacement, chased down the drive and made a juggling catch after pulling the ball back over the fence.

"That moment was magical for both Wise and Buehrle, and obviously, the whole game was kind of magical for Buehrle," Kapler said. "Those guys earned those moments. That's what this game is about. Sometimes you're the bug, sometimes you're the windshield. Today, Buehrle got to be the windshield, and we didn't get hits."

Buehrle (11-3) was asked if he's going to buy Wise a steak dinner.

"I think I owe him a little bit more than that," Buehrle said. "I bought the guys watches, everybody on the team, last time, so that was an expensive no-hitter. This one will probably be a lot more expensive."

Whatever the cost, it'll be worth it.

"Obviously, the World Series is the ultimate goal," said Buehrle, who no-hit the Texas Rangers at the Cell on April 18, 2007, when he also faced the minimum 27 batters and picked off Sammy Sosa after walking him. "That's going to be up on top. As a personal goal, I've always said I want to win a Gold Glove because I take pride in my defense.

"But a perfect game no-hitter, I don't even know if I ranked that in the Top 5 because I didn't think it would ever happen."

As he became the first American League pitcher to achieve perfection since the Yankees' David Cone did on July 18, 1999, Buehrle's wife Jamie and four-month-old daughter Brooklyn watched the gem unfold from the scout seats behind home plate.

"I was trying not to throw up," Jamie said. "I'm so proud of my husband. He never ceases to amaze me."

Want more amazing?

• The home-plate umpire Thursday - Eric Cooper - also called Buehrle's no-hitter against the Rangers.

"A lot of things could go through your mind during the half-inning breaks, but when I work the plate I try to pay attention to what's in front of me, no matter what the situation is," Cooper said. "After the game, we certainly talked about this being the second one with Buehrle. I thought about it more then than when I was actually working."

• It was the third time Buehrle has faced the minimum (27 hitters) in his career. He accomplished the feat in the no-hitter against the Rangers and also on July 21, 2004, when he threw a 2-hit shutout at Cleveland.

• Buehrle entered the game ranked among league leaders with 122 hits allowed.

• The perfect game was just the second in White Sox history. Charles Robertson threw one at Detroit on April 30, 1922.

Buehrle is well known for relying on movement rather than power, but Thursday was an unusual day for the pitcher.

"It was kind of weird," Buehrle said. "Today was one of those days where I think I threw all curveballs and changeups. I didn't throw too many fastballs or too many cutters. Normally, I'm going to say if I throw 100 pitches, 30 or 35 are going to be cutters. I probably threw five today it seems like. But the changeup and curveball were working."

A.J. Pierzynski caught Buehrle's first no-hitter, but Ramon Castro was behind the plate against Tampa Bay. It was the first time he ever caught Buehrle.

"It's an honor for me to catch a perfect game for him," Castro said. "After the seventh inning, I thought we were going to do it. Oh my God, I was shaking a little bit in the seventh, but we did it."

Rookie third baseman Gordon Beckham was also shaking, in the eighth inning, when the Rays' Pat Burrell rifled a line drive down the line that was foul by an inch or two.

"The only thing I'm thinking is, 'Of course it's me,'" Beckham said with a nervous laugh. "'Of course it's me that would give this up.' But when it went past me, it went past me so quick I didn't even see it hit the ground. Next thing I know, Laz (Diaz) the umpire is jumping up in the air and I knew it was foul just from where he was. I couldn't believe it. I was just so happy it went foul."

And all of the White Sox couldn't be happier for Buehrle.

"We're excited," manager Ozzie Guillen said. "In the coaches' room, everybody was in tears. One thing about it, it couldn't happen to a better guy, a franchise kid, organization man and a great guy to have around. You guys (media) know how good it is to be around that kid every day.

"It was quality pitches. And he has been doing that for a long time. To me, he is one of the most underrated pitchers in the American League the last 10 years."

Pitchers of perfection
Here are the 18 pitches who have thrown perfect games, with Mark Buehrle becoming the latest with his victory Thursday:
Pitcher Date Result Time
Cy Young 5-5-1904 Boston 3 Philadelphia 0 1:23
Addie Joss 10-2-1908 Cleveland 1 Chicago 0 1:29
Charlie Robertson 4-30-1922 Chicago 2 Detroit 0 1:55
Don Larsen 10-8-1956 New York 2 Brooklyn 0 2:06
Catfish Hunter 5-8-1968 Oakland 4 Minnesota 0 2:28
Len Barker 5-15-1981 Cleveland 3 Toronto 0 2:09
Mike Witt 9-30-1984 California 1 Texas 0 1:49
Kenny Rogers 7-28-1994 Texas 4 California 0 2:08
David Wells 5-17-1998 New York 4 Minnesota 0 2:40
David Cone 7-18-1999 New York 6 Montreal 0 2:16
Mark Buehrle 7-23-2009 Chicago 5 Tampa Bay 0 2:03
Lee Richmond 6-12-1880 Worcester 1 Cleveland 0 1:26
John Ward 6-17-1880 Providence 5 Buffalo 0 NA
Jim Bunning 6-21-1964 Philadelphia 6 New York 0 2:19
Sandy Koufax 9-9-1965 Los Angeles 1 Chicago 0 1:43
Tom Browning 9-16-1988 Cincinnati 1 Los Angeles 0 1:51
Dennis Martinez 7-28-1991 Montreal 2 Los Angeles 0 2:14
Randy Johnson 5-18-2004 Arizona 2 Atlanta 0 2:13