The Humber Game: Perfect win for White Sox
Flawless right-hander uses just 96 pitches to retire all 27 Mariners
By Josh Liebeskind / MLB.com | 4/21/2012 8:51 PM E
CWS@SEA: Humber fans Ryan to complete perfect game
SEATTLE -- There are good games, and there are great games. Then there are the perfect ones that stick with you for the rest of your life.
Philip Humber will never forget what he accomplished Saturday afternoon. What started with a harmless ground-ball out turned into another out, which turned into another, and another, and another. Twenty-seven outs later, Humber had the 4-0 win over the Mariners. More importantly, he had a perfect game, and his place in the record books.
"I'm thankful -- the team played awesome," said Humber, a look of half-disbelief spread across his face. "The first thing you want to do is get a win, and it was nice to have that last run there, have that four-run lead going into the ninth.
"[Catcher] A.J. [Pierzynski] did a great job, couple of great plays in outfield and just awesome. I don't even know what to say. I don't know what Phil Humber is doing in this list. No idea what my name is doing there, but thankful it's there."
It is the first perfect game or no-hitter in the Major Leagues this season, and the 21st of all-time. The last perfect game was thrown by Roy Halladay on May 29, 2010. The last no-hitter was July 27, 2011, by Ervin Santana.
It is the 18th time a White Sox pitcher has thrown a no-hitter, and the third perfect game. Mark Buehrle last accomplished the feat July 23, 2009. It is the first time someone has thrown a perfect game against the Mariners. They were last no-hit May 14, 1996, by Dwight Gooden and the Yankees.
Humber made it look easy for the most part of eight innings, not once going to a three-ball count. But then the ninth came, and the right-hander's perfect game was threatened a couple times.
Michael Saunders led off the final frame by drawing three straight balls, the crowd stirring with each miss of the strike zone. But Humber came right back at Saunders and got him to swing at strike three. After retiring pinch-hitter John Jaso on a fly ball to right, Brendan Ryan walked to the plate and worked the count full.
Humber went after Ryan with a slider, and although it missed the plate by a good margin, he was able to get the Mariners' shortstop to offer at the pitch in the dirt. While Ryan argued with the umpire, Pierzynski scooped up the ball -- which had squirted a few feet away, but was well-blocked by the Chicago catcher -- and tossed to first base to set off a massive celebration on the mound.
"I'm not going to lie, it was really selfish, but no matter what, I at least wanted the no-hitter," said Pierzynski, who also caught Buehrle's no-hitter April 18, 2007. "If he walked him, he walked him. We had just thrown him a fastball; he had a good swing on it. That was his best pitch all day. We were going with his best pitch and we were going down with it."
"It was, it was," said Ryan of the last pitch being ball four. "But ... I don't want to finish that. In that situation, you have to be a little more aggressive to anything around the plate."
The closest the Mariners came to getting a hit was in the fourth, when Dustin Ackley lined a ball sharply to right. But Alex Rios made a nice running catch near the warning track, reaching up to snag the drive at the last minute.
"He hit that ball pretty hard and actually, as you probably saw, I had to jump a little to get that ball, but I never thought that it was going to be the closest to being a hit in that game," Rios said.
Humber needed only 96 pitches to accomplish the feat, the fewest in a perfect game since David Cone's 88 vs. the Expos on July 18, 1999. Humber needed just eight pitches to get through the fourth, and only six in both the fifth and sixth.
While Humber was plugging away on the mound, Paul Konerko gave him early run support. Konerko smashed career home run No. 398 over the White Sox bullpen in left field in the second inning.
Konerko missed his second home run in as many at-bats in the third, as he cranked a Blake Beavan offering off the top of the left-field wall. The long single scored Gordan Beckham from third, and Pierzynski followed with an RBI single, bringing home Brent Morel -- who had advanced to third on Konerko's base knock -- to increase the White Sox lead to 3-0.
Chicago added one more insurance run in the ninth on an RBI single by Alejandro De Aza. That final run gave manager Robin Ventura the confidence that the game was "pretty much [Humber's]." And Humber took care of the rest.
"When it's the ninth, you're standing on the mound and you're like, 'I'm standing here in the ninth inning with the chance to throw a perfect game,'" Humber said. "I guess a ton of credit goes to A.J. -- he knew just what to call today, kept them off-balance all day.
"Honestly, I didn't feel like I had great stuff up until maybe the sixth, seventh inning. I felt the ball was coming out of my hand a little better. A.J., we've worked well together since I've been here, and a lot of credit goes to him."