|Buehrle loose during no-hitter|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 19 April 2007 09:24|
CHICAGO (AP) -Mark Buehrle was mixing pitches and speeds, no-hitting the Texas Rangers and steering away from one of baseball's oldest superstitions. He was talking it up, ignoring the pressure and having a good old time.|
There was no hiding in the corner of the dugout or isolating himself for the popular Chicago White Sox's left-hander during a game he'll always remember.
Buehrle was glad to have a conversation with anyone who would listen, contradicting the adage that discussing or even mentioning an ongoing no-hitter is the fastest way to lose it.
He watched some TV in the clubhouse, chatted with batterymate A.J. Pierzynski and even reminded backup catcher Toby Hall early in the game that he was pitching a no-hitter.
``He was talking more than anybody,'' first baseman Paul Konerko said. ``That's typical Buerhle.''
Buehrle shook off some ninth-inning jitters when his legs admittedly were a little jelly like and finished off the no-hitter Wednesday night, just missing a perfect game by a fifth-inning walk to Sammy Sosa, whom he quickly picked off first. The White Sox won 6-0.
Buehrle waived to the crowd and was later doused with beer by teammates who had mobbed him seconds earlier. He also hugged his expectant wife.
``You never really think of throwing a no-hitter. I never thought it would happen. It's amazing,'' Buehrle said.
Buehrle's cool was not surprising to those who know the 28-year-old from St. Charles, Mo. He has fun with the game and it's not phony.
Until he was told he could risk injury doing it, he used to do belly flops on the tarp during rain delays. He also likes to be the catcher for ceremonial first pitches.
Buehrle's reputation is for working fast, getting the ball and throwing it, no messing around on the mound. That's why it took just 2 hours and three minutes Wednesday night to keep the Rangers hitless and face the minimum 27 batters.
He's been known to give up a lot of hits - making his no-hitter all the more startling - pitch a lot of innings and win a lot of games.
The three-time All-Star threw a one-hitter against Tampa Bay in 2001. But perhaps the biggest performance of his career came out of the bullpen when he saved Game 3 of the 2005 World Series by getting the final out of a 14-inning marathon against Houston.
The win Wednesday night left Buehrle two wins shy of 100 in a career that until the second half of last season had been mostly successful. He finished 12-13 - his first losing season in six full big-league seasons - and stumbled in the second half when he went 3-7 after making the All-Star team.
``I didn't do too good in the second half of last year. I used this offseason to figure out things and focus on this season,'' Buehrle said. ``The first three games have been pretty good so far.''
But the season got off to a scary start when in his first game he was hit in the left forearm by a line drive against Cleveland and was forced out in the second inning. He got the swelling down and in his next outing against Oakland, he retired 20 of the final 22 batters he faced in a solid seven-inning performance.
One theory is that Buehrle's struggles last season were related to wear and tear from six straight seasons of pitching at least 200 innings. Entering 2007, Buehrle had thrown 1,376 2/3 innings since the beginning of 2001 season - second most in the major leagues to Livan Hernandez. He's also surrendered more than 230 hits in each of the last five seasons.
Not a power pitcher - his top pitches may hit the high 80s to around 90 mph - Buehrle has done it by mixing things up, working the angles of the plate and letting his defense make plays behind him.
And that's what happened Wednesday night. Third baseman Joe Crede made a great play to throw out Jerry Hairston in the third inning. Hairston used a head-first slide and replays showed he was out on a close play, although he was ejected for arguing.
And Crede got the final out, as well, grabbing Gerald Laird's slow grounder and throwing to first to set off a celebration.
``To me, it's the way he's always pitched, even in the minor leagues,'' Crede said. ``He's always kept us in the game and on our toes.''
As expected, the matter of Buehrle's contract that expires after the season came up as he was discussing his performance.
During spring training he revealed that the White Sox offered a contract extension at the break last season. He passed on the deal, which several newspapers reported would have guaranteed more than $30 million over three years.
The White Sox exercised a $9.5 million option for this season.
``Do you think Jerry wants to call me in the office and sign a deal right now?'' Buehrle said, referring to owner Jerry Reinsdorf.
General manager Ken Williams talked with Buehrle before the game and was one of the first people to greet him in the clubhouse afterward.
``Even if I'm signed through this year or not, he's still rooting for me,'' Buehrle said. ``Back in the training room before the game he said go out and have some fun. So I had as much fun as I could.''
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