White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski: More nerve-racking than World Series
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN email@example.com April 21, 2012 10:20PM
Chicago White Sox v Seattle Mariners
The facts: 3:10 p.m., CSN, 670-AM.
The pitchers: John Danks (1-2, 4.82 ERA) vs. Kevin Millwood (0-0, 6.30 ERA).
Updated: May 24, 2012 8:23AM
Catcher A.J. Pierzynski missed out on Mark Buehrle’s perfect game. He wanted to make sure he got this one.
Pierzynski has been to baseball’s mountaintop with a World Series title in 2005, but catching Philip Humber’s perfect game — the 21st in major-league history — was more nerve-racking.
“It’s as nervous as you can be as a player,’’ Pierzynski said in the euphoric visitors’ clubhouse at Safeco Field after he caught Humber’s game. “I’d say I was more nervous than in the World Series because there’s no buildup for this. It just happens. You want it so bad for the guy on the mound, and you want him to have that achievement forever and want him to be remembered for that forever. It’s a special thing, and Phil did it.”
Pierzynski said he didn’t get anxious until late because so many no-hitters are broken up late. But he turned to Sox pitcher Jake Peavy after the eighth inning and said, ‘Man, I’m nervous.’ ’’
“My hand was shaking because you don’t get the opportunity to be in that situation often,’’ Pierzynski said. “The way Phil was pitching, what it would mean to him, his family and his career, it’s amazing. I’m still in shock and happy for Phil. I’m kind of speechless right now.”
Pierzynski had to run down a dropped third strike for the final out. Brendan Ryan couldn’t hold up his swing on a slider low and well off the plate. There was no doubt about calling for a slider on a 3-2 count, though.
“I knew if we threw it close, he would swing,’’ Pierzynski said. “If we were going down, we were going down with his best pitch.’’
Humber repeatedly credited Pierzynski for his pitch-calling. He did shake off a few pitches, something Buehrle never did.
“Buehrle texted me and said, ‘You got your perfect game,’ so he was happy for me. It’s great. I’ve been very fortunate to see a lot of amazing things, to have caught a no-hitter [Buehrle’s], and a perfect game is pretty cool. I don’t know how many catchers can say that. But it’s a special feeling and something I’ll definitely be proud of the rest of my life.”
One of the trickier outs that went unnoticed was Jesus Montero’s grounder to second baseman Gordon Beckham to end the eighth. Montero hit it off the end of the bat, and the ball was spinning like a top toward Beckham.
“I had to almost stab it,’’ Beckham said.
“I was on the field for Mark Buehrle’s, and it was like my second month in the big leagues, so it didn’t hit me like this one.
“Today the intensity was even greater than it was when we were home for Mark’s. There was the salute to the troops before the game, it was a Fox [national broadcast] game, and Phil just rose to the occasion.’’
◆ Brent Lillibridge, one of Humber’s closest friends on the team, made a running catch in the eighth on Kyle Seager’s liner toward the line. Did he even think about “blowing” the perfect game? Absolutely.
“When you come in as a defensive replacement in a game like that, you’re thinking, ‘Don’t be the guy,’ ’’ Lillibridge said.