Rays on wrong side of Buehrle's perfection
White Sox lefty tosses 18th perfect game in MLB history
CHICAGO -- Jason Bartlett never had a chance to reach first base safely against White Sox ace Mark Buehrle, when he rolled a bouncing ball to shortstop for the final out of Thursday afternoon's game.
Bartlett wasn't alone.
Twenty-seven times, Rays hitters took their cuts off Buehrle. And 27 times, they walked back to the visiting dugout unsuccessful, as Buehrle tossed a perfect game in a 5-0 White Sox victory against the Rays, setting off a wild on-field celebration at U.S. Cellular Field.
When it was all over, the Rays, who lost three of four games in the series, could do nothing but tip their collective caps to Buehrle, the crafty veteran left-hander.
"The first couple innings just went by too fast," Rays designated hitter Pat Burrell said. "By the time we realized what we were getting into, I think we were a little late. That being said, that was just awesome, fun to be a part of."
Rays lefty Scott Kazmir had the misfortune of opposing Buehrle on the mound on this day. Kazmir's (4-6) one mistake pitch in the bottom of the second inning was all it took for the Rays to fall behind for good on a day when Buehrle (11-3) made zero mistakes.
Kazmir surrendered a lead-off single to Paul Konerko, walked Carlos Quentin and allowed another single to backup catcher Ramon Castro, loading the bases with two outs for Josh Fields. Fields then put a charge into a 3-1 fastball, tagging a grand slam to left field to move the White Sox ahead, 4-0. It was the first grand slam Kazmir has ever given up.
Kazmir, who was forced to leave his previous start with a cramp in his lower left forearm, said he still felt the after-effects during Thursday's outing.
"I didn't feel good at all throughout the whole start," Kazmir said. "It felt like I was tight in the bullpen. I got to the game and was just short-arming everything. I feel like I didn't have the control I wanted, or the velocity. But I took the ball, so I had to do what I had to do."
Alexei Ramirez added an RBI double off Kazmir in the fifth, but with Buehrle working masterfully through the order, the White Sox hardly needed it.
When did Buehrle know he had an opportunity for this kind of special outing?
"From the get-go," Buehrle said. "Obviously, every inning you know three up, three down. I think when it gets to about the sixth or seventh inning, you kind of know, 'I've got six to nine outs left and I have a chance.'"
He certainly did.
Tampa Bay's best opportunity for a base hit occurred with nobody out in the top of the ninth inning. Rays right fielder Gabe Kapler launched a 2-2 pitch that appeared headed over the wall in deep left-center field.
But Dewayne Wise, who entered the contest moments earlier as a defensive replacement, made an outstanding leaping catch at the wall to bring back what would have been a sure home run.
"That moment was magical for both Wise and Buehrle and obviously the whole game was kind of magical for Buehrle," Kapler said. "Those guys earned those moments. That's what this game is about. Sometimes you're the bug. Sometimes you're the windshield. Today, Buehrle got to be the windshield, and we didn't get hits today."
Said Rays center fielder B.J. Upton: "When D-Wise goes up and makes that play the way he did, you had to pretty much know after that, that it probably wasn't going to happen."
With the 28,036 fans on their feet, Rays catcher Michel Hernandez struck out swinging for the second out of the ninth. That brought Bartlett to the plate for one last gasp attempt at tallying a base knock. He worked the count to 2-1 before slapping a ball to short. Ramirez took a few steps to his left, fielded the ball cleanly and threw on to Fields at first base for the final out of the contest.
"I was trying to stay up the middle," Bartlett said. "I knew the changeup was coming. I didn't want to pull off it. I had a good pitch to hit. It was just a lazy swing at it."
The Rays continued their season-long struggles offensively during day games. They are hitting .257 while playing in day games, compared to .277 at night. The Rays also are scoring 4.22 runs per game, compared to 5.69 runs at night.
"It is just one game," said Rays manager Joe Maddon, who praised Buehrle's sparking effort. "We have not been swinging the bat generally well lately, and they just got us today."
Thursday's game breezed by in a mere 2 hours, 3 minutes thanks to Buehrle's typical quick pace. The fast-working Buehrle retired the Rays in the first inning in just two minutes, a precursor of things to come.
"Guys are going to go out there and stick it to you every once in a while," said Rays third baseman Evan Longoria, who finished 0-for-3. "He just so happened to do it in perfect fashion."
Jesse Temple is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.