When Mark Buehrle first came to the big leagues, scouts were unimpressed by his repertoire. He didn't have a single offering that could be considered "plus" pitch. Yet he was able to finish his first full-season with the 4th best ERA and lowest WHIP in the AL.
I can't remember thinking too much about it at the time -- I was happy just to enjoy having a homegrown prospect turn into a real life major league pitcher -- but I'm sure some more tuned-in observers had to wonder: How does he do it?
It's now years later. Over a 100 wins later. A no-hitter later. An hour-and-fifty minute game later. A World Series (in which he recorded a save, but a not a victory) later. He's added a true plus pitch, the cutter, and I'm still not entirely sure how Mark Buehrle gets it done.
But he gets it done. And sometimes, sometimes, he really pulls out something special.
Thursday was one of those nights.
Buehrle breezed through the top of the first so fast that I missed the second and third batters, distracted by my dinner. By the time he took the mound again, he he had a 5-run cushion, which is a welcome change from the Sox recent slow starts. Though 1 run would have been more than enough for Buehrle on this night.
The next 16 Tigers to come to the plate would walk back to the dugout without reaching base, the first 19 batters of the game, perfect through 6-and-third. And he made it look easy, with stuff that scouts would still call pedestrian (though his changeup was pretty nasty tonight). He needed no more than 15 pitches in any of the first 6 innings, and 12 or less in 5 of them.
Placido Polanco, the 20th Tiger hitter of the night, was the first to find an empty patch of grass with a double down the left field line, spoiling Buehrle's special night.
I can't say I'm too disappointed. Don't get me wrong, I was rooting for the perfect game. But the season had already begun to take on a 2007-ish feel in the last week. I'd rather watch a season that features the Sox competing all year long, even if they miss the playoffs, than one like the '07 season which featured three separate individual high notes (Buehrle's No-No, Thome's 500th HR, and Jenks 41 consecutive batters retired) yet seemingly little reason to watch everyday, which might explain why I didn't bother to write about the latter two.
As long as Mark Buehrle is on the White Sox, there will always be a reason to watch.