Baseball history isn’t often made at Safeco Field. But fortunately, there’s always a team playing besides the Mariners.
The Chicago White Sox’s Philip Humber, a 29-year-old Texan coming back from Tommy John surgery, threw a perfect game against the Mariners Sunday afternoon, thrilling 22,742 fans in a 4-0 decision in which only one ball, from Dustin Ackley, was in danger of falling in.
As fans stood in anticipation through the ninth inning, Humber reached his first three-ball count of the game against leadoff hitter Michael Saunders, who turned the 3-0 count into strike three swinging. Pinch-hitter John Jaso flied to right, bringing up a second pinch-hitter, Brendan Ryan, with the final Mariners’ opportunity.
Ryan reached 3-2, fouled back a pitch, then appeared to get ball four on a breaking pitch in the dirt that escaped catcher A.J. Pierzynski’s grasp. But an astonished Ryan was called for swinging at strike three, even though he appeared to check his swing. Since strike three must be caught, Pierzynski hustled after the ball that dribbled 30 feet away, while Ryan dawdled down the line, protesting.
He was thrown out at first, and the party began. Humber fell to his knees between the mound and first, then went face down in the grass as his teammates mobbed him. He was inundated as the Safeco crowd gave him an ovation.
Humber threw 96 pitches, had seven strikeouts, 13 fly-outs and seven ground outs for the 21st perfect game in MLB’s long history.
With his fifth team in a seven-year career, Humber entered the game with an MLB record of 11-10 with 4.06 ERA, which doesn’t speak to a history of domination. But he was up against the Mariners, who entered the game 13th in the American League in batting average. They were a mere .214 in first eight games of the homestand, which ends Sunday with a third game against the White Sox.
The loss was the fourth in five games for the Mariners. But no one who saw it was thinking about the Mariners woes.