Right, still letting the perfecto sink in, but I wanted to chuck this up here --I originally posted it to a Brit soccer club fansite I hang out at, at 11:06 PM on the 18th of April in 2007...
Mark Buehrle hurled the Majors' first no-hitter of the season on Wednesday nite for the White Sox, a sensational performance in which he faced the minimum 27 opposition batters and benefited from some outstanding defensive support as the Sox beat the visiting Texas Rangers by a final count of 6-0.
I didn't tune in until there was one out in top of the 5th inning, at which time the Sox held a 1-0 lead thanks to a Jim Thome home run in the 3rd and the turd Sammy Sosa had just drawn a walk off of Buehrle --who has an excellent pickoff move to first base and caught the clown Sosa napping for the inning's second out.
While the walk issued to Sosa spoiled a perfect game for Buehrle, the subsequent pickoff may have been crucial in preserving the no-hitter as the man at bat, Hank Blalock, bats lefty --and, with first baseman Paul Konerko holding the runner close, a gap in the right side of the infield defense was open until the successful pickoff play; in the event, Blalock would hit a sharp grounder that second baseman Tadahito Iguchi gloved while sliding on the grass in shallow rightfield and fired to first from his knees to get Blalock and end the frame.
In the bottom half of the inning, the Sox put three men on base after two men were out. Jermaine Dye stepped in, looked at three pitches out of the zone and then took a strike before fouling off six straight pitches and then, finally, lacing a line drive just over the leftfield wall and into the Sox' bullpen for a grand slam and a 5-0 Sox lead.
Earlier, Dye had jumped at the wall in rightfield to grab a long flyball and steal a home run away from the aforementioned Blalock with two out in the top of the second inning. In the top of the third inning, Sox third baseman Joe Crede made an excellent diving stop behind the bag of a smashed groundball off the bat of Jerry Hairston, Jr., came to a stop in foul ground, righted himself and made a throw to first that just beat Hairston, who had slid into the bag headfirst; Hairston would be ejected for his hysterical protestations against what replays showed to be a correct umpire's call.
With one out in the top of the seventh, Ian Kinsler would chop a grounder to the middle of the left side past a lunging Crede, but shortstop Juan Uribe ranged into the hole, gloved the ball and fired to first, where Konerko made a fine scoop of the ball on a short hop to retire Kinsler. Jim Thome would pad the Sox' lead with his second solo home run of the evening in the bottom half of that inning.
Aside from a fine effort by the third baseman Crede to charge and glove a soft grounder, hop and throw to first to retire the slow-footed Gerald Laird for the game's final out, there would be no need for any more defensive heroics or offensive output in the eighth or ninth innings as Buehrle rather routinely retired the final six Texas batters to record his first career no-hitter, the first in the the history of the Sox' ground that opened in 1991 and the first for a Sox pitcher since fellow southpaw Wilson Alvarez twirled a no-no in Baltimore on August 11, 1991.
A man of my age isn't given to worshipping athletes, and I don't tend to make favorites of any, but Mark Buehrle would be an exceptional case. Coming up to the majors to work primarily out of the bullpen in the White Sox' divisional championship season of 2000, Buehrle posted a 4-1 record with a solid ERA, establishing himself as a reliable lefty not given to fear on the mound, clearly one to watch and with a fierce pickoff move to first base.
In his full rookie season of 2001, an early rash of injuries decimated the Sox' starting rotation and, in combination with his consistently solid outings, swiftly elevated Buehrle to the top of the five-man rotation, a role that suited him from the beginning. Never overpowering, with a fastball that barely rises into the very low 90+ mph range, he works at a lightning-quick pace (I'm fond of saying that you know it's Buehrle's turn in the rotation when you order a pizza right after the National Anthem, and your doorbell rings during the postgame show).
He's a genuine joy to watch, he's perfectly content to let his defense do the work behind him as he induces a lot of groundballs on the infield --and, with that pickoff move to first, he's entirely unafraid to challenge batters, give up his share of base hits and then keep the baserunners well and truly on their toes (and his being a lefty only helps in this regard); always working in and around the strike zone, he doesn't walk very many batters, either.
He has a tendency to get touched up a bit in the first inning a of ballgame --early two- or three-run deficits are by no means unheard of in a Buehrle outing, and there was the seven-run first inning that he coughed up in Minnesota this time a year ago-- but he also has a knack for settling in, shrugging it off and shutting down the opposition from that point forward (and in fact he picked up the win in that game at Minnesota as he gathered himself and the Sox' batters picked him up).
When the Sox won the World Series, the guy for whom I was most pleased of all was Buehrle; when the championship parade rolled past me at an excellent viewing spot two days later, Buehrle was looking right at me as he exulted fifteen feet directly overhead from the upper level of a double-decked bus making a wide turn at an intersection. Special stuff.
For years, the Missouri native Buerhrle has been dogged by rumors --which he has not only done precious little to dispel but in fact has actively encouraged at times-- that he would prefer to play for the local favorites of his youth, the St. Louis Cardinals, when he is out of contract with the White Sox...which will be at the end of this season. We'll see what happens, and whatever does, I'll always be grateful for the memories.
Great show, Burls --nobody deserves it more.