08/15/12 9:41 PM ET
Perfection attaches itself to Rays in wrong way
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
Since 2009, Tampa Bay has been no-hit four times, making it the only team to be no-hit more than once over the past four seasons.
Of those four no-hitters, three were perfect games, making them the only team in baseball history to have three perfect games thrown against them during the regular season.
Mark Buehrle (July 23, 2009, for the White Sox) and Dallas Braden (May 10, 2010, for the A's) threw the other perfect games against the Rays. But make no mistake, the perfecto thrown by Felix Hernandez -- a 1-0 Seattle victory -- on Wednesday was different.
"This one was to me the most impressive one because of how overpowering he was," said Carlos Pena, who was with the Rays for the other two perfect games. "The other two were more finesse-type games. This one was very overpowering.
"Not just in the fact he's got a very good fastball, 94, 96 [mph]. His breaking pitches were very overpowering, very sharp, very hard, so very impressive. ... Not to take anything away from the other two lefties that I witnessed throwing perfect games. This was just dominating."
Evan Longoria, who also has been a Ray during the span of the three perfect games, described Hernandez's stuff as "the best stuff that I've seen from somebody in quite some time."
"The stuff was on par with anything I've ever seen," Longoria said. "His breaking stuff in general was sharp. It's tough to pick up out of his hand -- everything that a No. 1 pitcher in this league would be. The thing about today, he was able to throw it for strikes any pitch he wanted to.
"And like when he got ahead in counts and we were down, he was throwing it just out of the reach. Just kind of at the bottom of the zone, just far enough away to where we couldn't either put the barrel on it or even hit it. So it was a tough day."
Rays manager Joe Maddon has now either managed or coached for the losing teams in perfect games thrown by Kenny Rogers (when Maddon was a coach for the Angels), Buehrle and Braden. But he smiled noting that this one was the first he has seen from a right-hander.
"I'm like bad with this stuff," Maddon said. "I'm really bad with this stuff. ... The stuff was prodigious, and when he gets it going on and he got the vibe going on, he got us just chasing. We helped him a lot out of the zone. But that also speaks to the movement of his pitches, but we were out of the zone a lot. That's something we normally don't do, but that speaks to the movement on his pitches."
B.J. Upton is yet another one of the Rays players to experience all three of the perfect games. He, too, felt like Hernandez's was the most impressive one of the bunch.
"His stuff, man, it's electric," Upton said. "That's just the bottom line. And he had it today. He's a very good pitcher, and I think by the end of his career, he's definitely going down in the history books."
Sam Fuld, who was not with Tampa Bay for either of the previous two perfect games, was asked to put into words the fact that the Rays have now been on the wrong side of perfect games three times in the past four years.
"Pretty impressive," said Fuld with a smile. "That might not be the right word. Quirky. It's an anomaly."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.