27 Up, 27 Down

Saturday was supposed to be an uneventful day. After sleeping in, I was going to play some Zelda, read some Game of Thrones, or watch last Wednesday’s Modern Family. As I was deciding what to do, I turned on the Sox game on Fox, checked my e-mails, and ate lunch. After two innings, the box score flashed on the screen: the Sox hadn’t given up a hit.

Now it is totally unreasonable to think about a no-hitter after just two innings, but every time I watch a baseball game, I’m thinking about the possibility.  I decided that I was going to watch until Seattle got a hit and then I’d go about the rest of my day. But then it started happening. Phil Humber, the Sox’s 5th starter, the guy they claimed off waivers last year, started racking up perfect innings. 4, 5, 6. He surpassed his previous record of 6 2/3. These weren’t just no-hit innings; they were perfect innings. No walks. No errors. No men on base. 8 innings. The texts started flying in: “Are you watching this?” “Turn on the game!”

Most no-hitters or perfect games have a number of close plays or just dumb luck that goes in the pitcher’s favor. Buehrle’s perfect game in 2009 had the DeWayne Wise catch. But through eight innings on Saturday, the closest Seattle had come was a foul ball down the right-field line. A few high, high pop-ups made me hold my breath, but Major Leaguers rarely drop those balls. The count never even ran up to three balls until the final inning.

Generally speaking you need some luck or amazing plays to throw a perfect game.

But when Humber came out to start the ninth, you could tell the weight of the moment was getting to him. His first three pitches were nowhere close to the strike zone. He was over-pitching. At 3-0 he’d have to throw a fast ball, and the odds were the hitter would be sitting on it. But he struck him out, got the next guy to fly out, and then, on what is probably the most controversial call in the game, got the final batter out on a called  dropped third strike. A.J. Pierzynski (the Sox catcher) had to chase down the ball and throw it to first for the final out while the batter argued with the umpire. Brendan Ryan might have been safe if he had just sprinted to first, but he didn’t, and the scrum at the mound was already taking place. Phil Humber had done it. On what was supposed to be an uneventful Saturday afternoon, I watched him throw the 21st perfect game in Major League Baseball history.

As a White Sox fan, I’ve been lucky enough to experience three no-hitters in the last six years, and this is the second perfect game I’ve seen. However, this one was special because I watched every pitch. I didn’t tune in to Buehrle’s first no-hitter in 2007 until the 8th inning, and his perfect game was a weekday game, and I was at work. Because I watched every one of Humber’s pitches, I felt the tension throughout the entire game. One unfortunate part of this game was that it was a national broadcast, which meant I couldn’t hear Hawk Harrelson call the game. Major League Baseball stupidly doesn’t allow clips of games to be on YouTube, or I’d link you to Hawk’s over-enthusiastic call of Mark’s perfect game. All I could think of as Humber was laboring through those last three outs was that Hawk was probably going crazy wherever he was.

Talking with Kevin about the game Saturday night we both agreed that this probably doesn’t mean a whole lot for the Sox season overall. So far the Sox seem to be better than expected. Their pitching is certainly very good, and as long as they can get consistent starts and their bullpen continues to perform, they’ll be in close games all year. We both hoped that this perfect game wouldn’t be the highlight of the season, but at this point it’s a pretty good possibility. Regardless, I won’t let that temper my enjoyment of moment. Some fans never have seen their team throw a no-hitter, let alone a perfect game. The fact that I’ve seen two is pretty remarkable.

27 Up, 27 Down

Through my enjoyment, however, I couldn’t help but think about the text that I knew would never come. My friend Ira may have been the biggest baseball fan I knew. Although he rooted for the New York Mets, he still loved baseball (not always easy). He would always text me during no-hitters, and after Buehrle’s no-hitter and perfect game, his was one of the first congratulations texts I received. As a Mets fan, Ira had the unfortunate distinction of rooting for one of two Major League teams that have never thrown a no-hitter. As he would constantly remind me, the Sox have thrown 16 (or 17) no-hitters. The Yankees have thrown ten. The Mets, zero. Former Mets pitchers have thrown plenty. Nolan Ryan threw seven, but not one for the Mets. The most iconic Mets pitcher, Tom Seaver, threw a no-hitter for the Reds two years after he was traded. David Cone threw one for the Yankees. The list goes on. After Buehrle’s two, Ira let me know about them all, all over again. So after Humber’s no-hitter, my thoughts turned to him. I’m sure his text would have read something like this: “Congrats on your fourth no-hitter and second perfect game. You might have been surprised that Phil Humber threw one, but I wasn’t. The team that drafted him third overall in 2004? The New York Mets.”

468 ad