Buehrle enters record books with perfecto
Southpaw owns Rays for 18th perfect game in MLB history
CHICAGO -- Having thrown a no-hitter two seasons ago, nerves were not an issue for Mark Buehrle -- even if this game would end up being more historic.
Chopping down batter after batter with his nasty cutter and deceptive change, Buehrle breezed through the Rays' lineup quickly, as only he can. The Rays simply couldn't keep up with the southpaw's swift pace.
On this particular day, the Rays were simply overmatched.
And when Josh Fields wrapped his mitt around shortstop Alexei Ramirez's throw on ground ball at first base to end the game, the South Side erupted with thunderous applause for its hero.
It was the second no-hitter in Buehrle's career, the first coming April 18, 2007, against the Rangers. He became the first pitcher since Randy Johnson to throw multiple no-hitters, and the first to throw a perfect game since the Big Unit did it on May 18, 2004.
Buehrle is just the 18th player to throw a perfect game in Major League history.
"I don't think it's really soaked in," said Buehrle, just minutes after being mobbed by his gleeful teammates on the field. "I think it will soak in a little later. I still don't know what happened. Obviously, any time your name gets up there with some of the greats in the game, it means a lot. I think it's another thing when you retire and sit back and you see how many perfect games have been thrown in history and your name's in there. I think that's when I'll sit back and kind of be surprised."
Like any stellar pitching effort, it couldn't have been done without some help from the defense. Gabe Kapler came up to lead off the ninth inning and belted Buehrle's 2-2 pitch deep to center field.
Dewayne Wise, who was brought in as a defensive replacement, moving Scott Podsednik to left field, chased the ball down and made a spectacular leaping catch at the wall to rob Kapler of a home run, preserving Buehrle's bid for perfection.
Wise pumped his fist, his teammates celebrated, and Buehrle let out a sigh of relief.
"You just have to have everything go your way," Buehrle said. "Obviously, that last one that was hit, Dewayne Wise robbed it out there. I was just saying, 'Keep it in the park to give him a chance to catch it.'
"Hopefully it wasn't too many rows deep," Buehrle added with a smile. "Knowing him, he's going to climb the wall and try to get it."
Buehrle (11-3) struck out six batters and forced 11 ground ball outs. Few Rays hitters made any sort of hard contact against him, and only three hit line drives.
Buehrle, who has succeeded where few others have as a pitch-to-contact pitcher, doesn't fit the mold of pitchers who threw perfect games and no-hitters before him.
But White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen knows the secret to Buehrle's success.
"Strikes, a lot of guts and he has confidence in what he has," an excited Guillen said. "I've seen a lot of stuff and a lot of crazy things, and I said that [two] years ago when he threw the no-hitter. One of the toughest things I've seen in my life is to see Buehrle throw a no-hitter. Not because he can't; it's because his game plan is to make sure those guys put the ball in play and try to get out of there as quick as he can.
"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."
The White Sox offense jumped on Rays starter Scott Kazmir (4-6) quickly. After loading the bases with two outs in the second, Josh Fields smacked Kazmir's 3-1 pitch over the left-field wall to give the White Sox a comfortable 4-0 lead and effectively give Chicago a share of first place in the AL Central. The Tigers lost, 2-1, to Seattle.
It was just the fourth time Fields started this month, and had it not been for Buehrle's perfecto, he and his grand slam would have been the story of the game. But staying out of the spotlight was just fine with Fields.
"I finally didn't miss a pitch," Fields said. "I've been missing a lot of pitches lately. And I put a good swing on it. The ultimate thing was being a part of Buehrle's perfect game. That's the coolest. I don't care if my grand slam gets talked about or not. The best part of my day was catching that last ball and tackling him."
That probably would have been the best part of Buehrle's day, too, but shortly after the game he received a call from the White House -- from none other than President Barack Obama, who threw out the first pitch of the All-Star Game last week wearing a White Sox jacket.
"Yea, we joked around," Buehrle said of his conversation with the President. "A 30-second phone call, and I'm like 'What? That's all he's got for me?' Obviously I know he's got more important things to do, but it's just an honor that he took a couple seconds out of his day to call me."
David Just is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.