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Weekend Buzz: Perfect Braden now more than just A-Rod's foil


The Weekend Buzz while you were at Mother's Day brunch and remembering all those Little League practices she carted you to and from. ...

1. Just perfect: Oakland pitcher Dallas Braden now has a pretty good chance to be known for something more than just his feud with Alex Rodriguez. Whose mound is it now?

In throwing just the 19th perfect game in major-league history against the Tampa Bay Rays on a Mother's Day afternoon in the Oakland Coliseum, Braden emerged with a signature career moment, one that on a large scale could be a launching pad to even greater success ... and on a smaller scale, justifies his snapping at Rodriguez to "get off my mound" last month in Oakland.

Sometimes it takes attitude in conjunction with talent to make it in the major leagues, and after Braden's exquisite performance against the Rays on Sunday, no more can opponents disrespect him as some passerby whose credentials don't measure up.

The Braden-Rodriguez feud even extended to this weekend when, after Braden reiterated in a recent interview that A-Rod is a selfish player, A-Rod, condescending as ever, told reporters in New York on Friday, "I really don't want to extend his extra 15 minutes of fame."

No worries there.

Forty-eight hours later, Braden did that all by himself.

Best part was watching him hug his grandmother, who helped look after him after his mother died of cancer when he was a senior in high school, in a long and emotional Mother's Day embrace on the field.

Second-best part was Braden's grandmother speaking to the press afterward and the sweet, old lady saying, "Stick it, A-Rod." Seriously.

What can possibly provide more fun than this crazy game of baseball?

Braden is 26 years old, he's made 67 career appearances and he entered this season with a 14-21 record and a 4.68 ERA. His 2007 season ended early with arm trouble; he made only 22 starts last season before a rash on his foot became an infection and caused nerve damage.

His chief weapon is a changeup, which he threw frequently and lethally against Tampa Bay on Sunday -- especially in 1-2 and 0-2 counts. His fastball sits at just 86-88 miles an hour.

"We met in the hallway before the game and talked about Ben Sheets having a lot of success [Saturday] going inside," Braden's catcher, Landon Powell, said afterward. "I was setting up on their back hip, and he kept throwing the fastball, and it kept running back over the plate."

Fastball in, changeup away ... it worked all afternoon. Braden threw 109 pitches, 77 for strikes, and he had only three full counts on the afternoon -- and none after Ben Zobrist's in the fourth.

The most dangerous moment came when Tampa Bay's Gabe Kapler battled Braden through a 12-pitch at-bat to end the sixth (Kapler fouled to third). Then, Braden bounced back with an economical seven-pitch seventh.

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Facing the meat of the order in the eighth -- Evan Longoria, Carlos Pena and B.J. Upton -- Braden watched third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff make an excellent catch of Pena's foul slice while disappearing into the dugout.

Then, with two out in the ninth, who should he get but Kapler again.

"I was thinking either knuckleball, gyroball or maybe throw underhanded," Braden quipped during the postgame interview on the Oakland television channel, referring to the previous 12-pitch at-bat. "Any way to get him out."

On a 3-1 count, Braden got Kapler to ground to shortstop -- and pandemonium raged as Oakland got its first perfect game since Catfish Hunter on May 8, 1968. Nearly 42 years to the day.

Now, of only 19 perfect games in major-league history, the last two have been tossed at the Tampa Bay Rays. Braden's was the first since Mark Buehrle of the White Sox did it last July -- also against the Rays.

"You never imagine all those goose eggs," Braden said. "You just try and go compete."

The guess here is it will be a long time before someone pulls an A-Rod and uses Braden's mound as a short cut to return from third base to first following a foul ball.

2. What jinx? Huge kudos to the Comcast Sportsnet folks who produce the Oakland telecasts for the way they handled Braden's march to history on Sunday.

Fan Poll

Did Dallas Braden shut A-Rod up with his perfect game?

Absolutely: Keep quiet Alex
No way: Dallas is still a nobody

Total Votes: 40,078

Where so many home radio and television folks dance around the subject when one of their pitchers is working on a no-hitter for fear of jinxing it, the Oakland Comcast folks came straight at it. They spoke openly of how Braden was working on a perfect game. And as he took the mound for the ninth inning, with history hanging in the balance, not only did they show highlights of Catfish Hunter's 1968 perfect game, they followed that with a graphic listing all five Oakland no-hitters (six now).

And after all that, guess what? Braden mowed down Tampa Bay 1-2-3 in the ninth to finish off the perfecto.

The jinx stuff may work in the dugout, but broadcasters and newsmen are supposed to tell folks what is happening. And on Sunday, the Oakland Comcast folks showed everybody else how it should be done. Tweet that.

3. The Moyer report: Break out the Old Guys Rule T-shirts with pride, because in throwing a sterling two-hit shutout Friday against Atlanta, the Phillies' Jamie Moyer, at 47 years and 170 days old, became the oldest pitcher in major league history to toss a shutout. Previous old guy who ruled was Phil Niekro of the Yankees, who was 46 years and 188 days old when he shut out Toronto in 1986.

4. A Starlin is born: Not only did Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro, who created an immense buzz in Mesa, Ariz., this spring, set a big-league record with six RBI in his debut Friday night, but he also became the first player born in the 1990s to reach the majors. When Castro was born March 24, 1990, Moyer was in spring training with Texas -- preparing for his fifth major-league season.

5. Mets-cellaneous catchers rock: Rod Barajas' bottom-of-the-ninth homer beat San Francisco on Friday, then Henry Blanco's bottom-of-the-11th homer beat the Giants on Saturday. Clearly, the Mets failed to sweep on Sunday after Jason Bay's leadoff double because David Wright, Ike Davis and Jeff Francoeur (who all fanned) couldn't keep things moving to get to Barajas' place in the lineup. That, or Duffy Dyer was catching.

6. Hip, hip, hoo-Rays: Until Oakland solved Tampa Bay's Wade Davis on Saturday and Dallas Braden threw a perfect game at them on Sunday, the Rays had won 13 of their first 14 road games this year while posting a 1.88 road ERA and holding opponents to a .192 batting average on the road. Now that Oakland slowed the AL East leaders, let's see what happens next: The Rays head to Anaheim ... where they are 1-13 under manager Joe Maddon (who was a coach on Angel manager Mike Scioscia's staff before taking over Tampa Bay).

7. Please, somebody tell the networks: That the Red Sox stink. Yes, it was Yankees at Red Sox this weekend, and yes, the MLB Network, Fox and ESPN all rushed their cameras in place for national telecasting. By the time Saturday's game was finished, the Sox had been out-scored 24-6 in the first two games. I'd have watched anything -- even a rerun of the infernal Glee. At this pace, the Red Sox are going to have difficulty finishing ahead of rebuilding Toronto.

8. Minnesota's wet Friday:Dallas Braden didn't author the only bit of history this weekend. The Twins on Friday suffered their first rainout since 1981. Some say it was God crying because Joe Mauer (heel) couldn't be in the lineup that day.

9. Milwaukee cycles through: Outfielder Jody Gerut hit for the cycle in Arizona on Saturday as the Brewers popped for 17 runs, and you don't think they're happy to be out of San Diego, do you? After getting shut out in three of four games in Petco Park last weekend, the Brewers scored 45 runs in their next five games in Los Angeles and Arizona.

10. Kudos to Atlanta manager Bobby Cocks: I know how you spell it, but I'm preparing to run for U.S. Senate. (Did you see what happened when the Senators honored Cox with a cake on Capitol Hill last week? And these are the guys we expect to fix immigration and complete financial reform? Yeah, right).


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