Perfection: Sox' Mark Buehrle Pitches Perfect Game
CHICAGO (AP) - Mark Buehrle pitched the 18th perfect game in major league history, and Chicago White Sox center fielder DeWayne Wise got the assist.
Just into the game as a defensive replacement, Wise robbed Gabe Kapler of a leadoff home run in the ninth inning and Buehrle coolly closed out a 5-0 victory Thursday over the Tampa Bay Rays.
Wise took over in center field from Scott Podsednik, who shifted to left. With the count 2-2, Kapler hit a drive to deep left-center. Wise sprinted, jumped and got his glove about a foot above the 8-foot fence to rob Kapler of a home run.
The ball almost came out when Wise caromed off the fence, stumbled, fell to the ground and rolled. But he steadied it with his chest and bare left hand and bounced right up, proudly displaying the ball for the crowd.
"I was hoping it was staying in there, give him enough room to catch it. I know the guys were doing everything they could to save the no-hitter, the perfect game, whatever it might be," Buehrle said.
Wise knew the stakes.
"I was with the Braves in '04 and I was there when Randy Johnson of the Diamondbacks pitched a perfect game. So I've been on both sides of it," he said. "It was probably the best catch I've ever made because of the circumstances.
"It was kind of crazy, man, because when I jumped, the ball hit my glove at the same time I was hitting the wall. So I didn't realize I had caught it until I fell down and the ball was coming out of my glove, so I reached out and grabbed it."
White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen was happy he made the switch.
"I guess that's our job," he said.
Michel Hernandez then struck out, and with fans chanting Buehrle's name, Jason Bartlett grounded to shortstop. Buehrle put both hands on his head and was mobbed by teammates between the mound and first base.
"I don't know if it's really sunk in yet. We have a short flight to Detroit. I'm sure it will be a little hectic later," Buehrle said.
The pitcher had already received a congratulatory telephone call from President Barack Obama - a White Sox fan - following the 16th perfect game since the modern era began in 1900 and the first since Johnson's on May 18, 2004.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Obama told Buehrle: "It was an unbelievable achievement, something that everyone will always remember."
Buehrle (11-3), backed by Josh Fields' second-inning grand slam, threw 76 of 116 pitches for strikes and fanned six in his second no-hitter, helping Chicago move within a percentage point of AL Central-leading Detroit.
In a 6-0 win over Texas on April 18, 2007, he also faced the minimum 27 batters. He walked Sammy Sosa in the fifth inning of that game, then picked him off two pitches later.
"I bought everyone watches after the last one. That was an expensive no-hitter," Buehrle said. "This one will probably be more expensive."
Before the ninth, Buehrle needed no great plays behind him. In the fourth, Evan Longoria hit a line drive right at shortstop Alexei Ramirez. In the eighth, third baseman Gordon Beckham didn't have to move to catch Pat Burrell's liner.
Buehrle went to three-ball counts on five batters, including 3-0 to Bartlett in the sixth. Bartlett took the next two pitches for strikes, fouled one off and then hit a routine grounder to Ramirez. As the shortstop threw to first, those in the crowd of 28,036, sensing history, cheered loudly.
With one out in the eighth, Ben Zobrist hit a weak grounder that just rolled foul and later popped out on a 3-2 pitch. The next batter, Burrell, lined one just foul to left, with third-base umpire Laz Diaz making an emphatic "foul" call. Burrell then lined out to third moments later.
The 30-year-old left-hander became only the second pitcher to throw two no-hitters for the White Sox: Frank Smith did it against Detroit in 1905 and the Philadelphia Athletics in 1908. The only previous perfect game for the White Sox was by Charles Robertson at Detroit on April 30, 1922.
It was the second no-hitter against the Rays. Derek Lowe accomplished the feat for Boston on April 27, 2002.
Scott Kazmir (4-6) allowed five runs and five hits in sixth innings. In addition to Fields' grand slam, Ramirez hit an RBI double in the fifth.
NOTES: The Rays placed RHP Chad Bradford on the 15-day DL with low back tightness and recalled RHP Dale Thayer from Triple-A Durham. ... After failing on their previous four attempts to go five games over .500, the White Sox succeeded.
(This version CORRECTS 19th paragraph to say Buehrle went to three-ball counts on five batters. ) )