Almost Perfect

Mark Buehrle became the first White Sox pitcher since Joe Horlen in 1967 to throw a no-hitter at home, and the first in USCF history. He was tantalizingly close to pitching the 18th perfect game in major league history. A 5th inning walk to Sammy Sosa was the lone blemish on Buehrle's pitching line, and he would erase the baserunner two pitches later by picking Sosa off of first base.

Buehrle made Sosa look so foolish on changeups in his first at-bat that he had no intention of giving Sosa anything other than changeups near the zone in his second at-bat. Sosa didn't flail as wildly as was to be expected, and walked on just 5 pitches. Not quite as bad as Tuesday's bone-headed pitch selection to Sosa, but it was tough to watch Samme take first after winning a battle of wills.

9 innings of no-hit baseball. 27 batters faced. Amazing.

While Buehrle was very close to perfection, he wouldn't have been there if not for some stellar defense behind him. Joe Crede, Juan Uribe, Tadahito Iguchi, and Jermaine Dye all turned in fine defensive plays.

  • In the second inning, Dye caught a high fly ball at the wall that might have saved a home run. Hard to tell if it would have cleared the wall, but it was hit a long way.
  • In the third, Crede dove into foul territory to rob Jerry Hairston Jr. of extra bases with a spectacular dive-and-throw. Hairston dove headfirst into first, and was called out on bang-bang play. He was tossed for arguing on the play.
  • In the 5th, Tadahito Iguchi smothered a ball in shallow left that, combined with the pick-off of Sosa, signaled that something special was in the works.
  • In the 7th, Crede couldn't get to a ball in the hole, but Juan Uribe was waiting with one foot on the outfield grass for the plant-and-fire to easily get Michael Young at first.
Buehrle's fastball was popping 89 MPH in the first inning, which is encouraging considering he couldn't top 86 in the second half last year, and even touched 90 according to the CSN gun. The renewed life on his fastball, combined with a great cutter running in on righties in the mid-80's, and a changeup in the high-70's should answer most of our lingering questions following last season's ineffective finish. What's surprising is Buehrle seemed to ditch his curveball, which was supposedly the pitch that Sandy Alomar was supposed to help Buehrle re-establish late last year.

Buehrle has allowed just 3 baserunners in his last 15 innings pitched, and has looked much more like the pitcher we'd come to know pre-July '06. I think it's safe bet that we won't be seeing that other guy for any extended period of time this year.

* * * * *

On the offensive side, Jim Thome continues to carry the team. It would be nice if we had some guys hitting well to surround him.

Kevin Millwood, who threw a no-no of his own in 2003, had a bit of trouble with Eric Cooper's strike zone in the 5th, walking Jim Thome and Paul Konerko to load the bases. After after falling behind Jermaine Dye 3-0, the two engaged in an extended battle in which Dye fouled of 6 straight pitches before finally lining one into the White Sox bullpen for a grand slam.

Dye has all of the Sox hits with RISP (2) in the last 4 games. So while the Sox offense awoke with a 6-run outburst, they're hardly stringing together the rallies we've grown to expect.

Cooper was also behind the plate for Hideo Nomo's no-hitter.

* * * * *

The no-hitter will, no doubt, spark talk of Buehrle's contract situation and lead many to claim this as an early season turning point. I'd rather sit back and enjoy the performance.

Tim Kirkjian reports that it was the first game in major league history that featured all of the following:

  1. a no-hitter (Buehrle)
  2. a multi-HR game (Thome)
  3. a grand slam (Dye)
That's why I love baseball.
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