4-17-07 - Mark Buehrle was pretty cool about his no-hitter. Until he had three outs to go.
"You don't want to make that one mistake and give up a hit," he said. "I could feel my knees a little bit, a little shaken, a little extra adrenaline going for the ninth inning."
Imagine how jittery Buehrle might have been if he was still working on a perfect game.
The Chicago White Sox left-hander faced the minimum 27 batters in a 6-0 victory over the Texas Rangers on Wednesday night, picking off the only runner he walked and throwing the first no-hitter of the major league season.
Working quickly and efficiently in a dominant performance, Buehrle allowed just one baserunner in Chicago's first no-hitter since 1991. He walked Sammy Sosa with one out in the fifth, then promptly picked him off first base.
"I can't believe I did it," Buehrle said. "Perfect game would have been nice, too."
Buehrle stayed calm all night. Bucking baseball tradition, he joked with teammates and even went to the clubhouse to watch some TV and chat with catcher A.J. Pierzynski.
Then came the ninth inning. With the crowd on its feet, Buehrle struck out Matt Kata and Nelson Cruz before Gerald Laird hit a slow grounder to third base that Joe Crede picked up and threw to first. As Paul Konerko caught the ball, he pumped his fist, setting off a wild celebration.
"Obviously, never in a million years thought I'd be able to have this happen," Buehrle said. "I don't know if it's really sunk in yet."
Buehrle was mobbed by teammates at the side of the mound. He got a big hug from manager Ozzie Guillen as he came off the field.
"I told Mark right after the game I've been nervous, but never like that in the World Series or playoffs or whatever," Pierzynski said. "When he got to ninth inning and two outs I was a lot more nervous than I was in the World Series. I don't want to say there was more on the line, but for a personal accomplishment that's about as good as it gets."
Buehrle said his teammates tried to avoid him on the bench as the game progressed, determined not to jinx him. But he went up to a couple of players in the dugout around the fifth inning and said, "You know I got a no-hitter going."
"People try to jinx and I was trying to jinx on myself," Buehrle said.
On a chilly, 40-degree night, Buehrle threw 105 pitches and struck out eight in a game that took just 2 hours, 3 minutes. His previous low-hit game was a one-hitter against Tampa Bay on Aug. 3, 2001. It was the 16th no-hitter in White Sox history and first since Wilson Alvarez threw one at Baltimore on Aug. 11, 1991.
"I was part of one in high school," Buehrle said. "To get through a big league lineup three times, I never thought it would happen."
It was the first no-hitter pitched against the Rangers since June 17, 1995, when Toronto's David Cone threw one in a 4-0 win.
More than two years passed without a no-hitter in major league baseball before rookie Anibal Sanchez threw one for Florida on Sept. 6, ending the longest stretch without a no-no in big league history. His gem against the Arizona Diamondbacks was the first in the majors since Arizona's Randy Johnson threw a perfect game to beat Atlanta 2-0 on May 18, 2004.
Over in the National League, John Maine of the New York Mets also flirted with a no-hitter Wednesday night, taking his bid into the seventh inning before Miguel Cabrera hit a leadoff single.
Buehrle, who retired 20 of the final 22 batters he faced in his previous start against Oakland, had some stellar defensive plays behind him before a crowd of 25,390 at U.S. Cellular Field.
Three of the closest plays came on grounders. Jerry Hairston hit one to Crede in the third inning and was called out at first after a headlong slide. Replays showed Hairston was out, but he was ejected by first base umpire James Hoye for arguing and had to be restrained by first base coach Gary Pettis when he returned to the field.
"Obviously, I thought I was safe," Hairston said. "But I don't want to take away from Buehrle, the guy just threw a no-hitter."
Second baseman Tadahito Iguchi made a diving stop of Hank Blalock's grounder in the hole, got up and threw him out to end the fifth. That came one batter after Sosa spoiled the perfect game bid by drawing the walk.
"I told him I couldn't believe he walked Sammy but he picked him off," Pierzynski said. "Doesn't it count still?"
In the seventh, Chicago shortstop Juan Uribe went into the hole to get Ian Kinsler's grounder and got him at first, thanks to a nice scoop by Konerko.
Chicago right fielder Jermaine Dye also made a nice play in the second on Blalock, going back to the fence to catch his long drive.
"Obviously, for a guy like me, I need my defense behind me," Buehrle said.
Once the ace of the White Sox staff, Buehrle went 12-13 last season -- his first losing record in six full major league seasons. After making the All-Star team, he struggled mightily after the break, going just 3-7.
Buehrle is in the final year of his contract. One of the first people to greet him in the clubhouse after the game was general manager Kenny Williams.
"He was on from the get-go," Blalock said. "He throws six or seven different pitches. He was hitting his spots and keeping us off balance. It was a great game by him."
The White Sox made it easier Wednesday night by breaking out of an offensive slump. They scored only two runs in the previous three games, all losses.
Jim Thome homered twice -- giving him 477 for his career -- and Dye hit a two-out grand slam in the fifth off Kevin Millwood (2-2).