Oakland’s Dallas Braden may have lost more games than he’s won but on Sunday he was nothing short of perfect.
Comfortably perfect Given the extraordinary rarity of perfect games it is remarkable how few tense moments there were during Dallas Braden’s remarkable performance against the Tampa Bay Rays. Last year Mark Buehrle needed a dramatic wall-climbing catch by DeWayne Wise in the ninth inning to keep his perfect game, also against the Rays, intact but there was no such incident for the remarkably calm Braden.
When it came to the last out Braden went 3-1 behind to Gabe Kapler in the count, so admittedly a walk was on. Once Kapler struck a ground ball to Cliff Pennington there was only a momentary gasp before he made the easy throw to first.
More than an upset While no-one ever sees a perfect game coming, few even saw this win coming. Dallas Braden was on the wrong side of the MLB betting interest going into Sunday. This is a player who had only 17 wins from 40 career decisions, was drafted in the 24th round of the 2004 draft, and was constantly rated as a long-shot prospect while in the minor leagues. As of this morning Braden is active is just 45.1 percent of ESPN’s Fantasy Leagues, and that’s after he achieved perfection. With all that going against him recorded only the 19th perfect game in Major League history against the team with the best record in Baseball this season. This ultimate underdog overcame all the doubters on Sunday.
Emotional timing Sunday was already a far from ordinary day in the life of Dallas Braden before he stepped onto the mound. He came into the game following a condescending retort from A-Rod, with whom he has been feuding over Baseball etiquette. When he looked to the stand Braden saw a mostly empty McAfee Coliseum, except in section 209 where fans from his home town of Stockton (209 is its area code) had gathered in tribute to the pitcher.
Most importantly it was Mother’s Day, when MLB players wear pink to raise cancer awareness. It was poignant for Braden who lost his mother to melanoma when he was a youth and was raised by his grandmother. Once the final out was made the feelings came pouring out as, after getting mobbed by his teammates, the A’s pitcher called his grandmother Peggy Lindsay onto the field and embraced her.
No shortage of drama While the 26 year-old pitcher kept it cool on the mound there were plenty of side stories around this perfect game. A’s general manager Billy Beane almost missed the game, while A-Rod showed humility in congratulating Braden for showing he could walk the walk.
All eyes will surely turn now towards Oakland’s trip to Yankee Stadium in July although the perfect game might do more to cool the air than raise the temperature. Braden’s re-match with Alex Rodriguez after mound-gate would likely have been more heated had the pitcher not proven his worth before the series in New York. Now that he has a perfect game on his resume, few in the Big Apple will begrudge Dallas Braden protecting his mound. Not that it will stop the tabloids from thinking otherwise and if Peggy offers her two cents again then we could see quite the media circus for what would otherwise be an ordinary three-game series.
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