Mark Buehrle continued his rebound season in historic fashion Wednesday night, pitching the 16th no-hitter in White Sox history and the major leagues' first of 2007 in a 6-0 blanking of the Texas Rangers.
Buehrle delighted a cold but enthusiastic crowd of 25,390 at U.S. Cellular Field, who watched him throw the first no-hitter at the ballpark. Only one Rangers batter reached base—Sammy Sosa on a fifth-inning walk—and Buehrle promptly picked him off first base.
Third baseman Joe Crede made a nice play on Gerald Laird's slow roller to end it, setting off a delirious celebration near the pitcher's mound.
"I probably was more nervous coming out of the eighth [inning] and going back to the ninth with the crowd going crazy," Buehrle said. "I could feel my knees shaking."
Buehrle said it was his first no-hitter at any level—"I pitched maybe two innings of a seven-inning one in high school"—and the first by a White Sox pitcher since Wilson Alvarez beat Baltimore 7-0 on Aug. 11, 1991.
"His stuff was the best I've seen in two years," catcher A.J. Pierzynski said.
Buehrle's no-hitter was the Sox's first at home since Joel Horlen beat Detroit 6-0 on Sept. 10, 1967. The last American League no-hitter occurred on April 27, 2002, when Boston's Derek Lowe beat Tampa Bay.
Buehrle, 28, struck out eight, including a called third strike on Matt Kata to start the ninth inning. He threw 66 of his 105 pitches for strikes.
"He was in command," Sosa said.
Buehrle pitched six no-hit innings against Tampa Bay on Aug. 3, 2001, before Damian Rolls got a single.
"You just put your seat belt on and hold," manager Ozzie Guillen said.
This was a signature game for Buehrle, whose 98-66 lifetime record with the Sox was temporarily scarred by a 12-13 mark and a 4.99 ERA last season. Buehrle turned down a contract extension midway through the 2006 season, and negotiations have been postponed until after this season.
He also took a line drive off his left pitching arm from Cleveland's Ryan Garko in the second inning of his first start on April 5, but he has been more than solid in each of his two subsequent starts.
One of the first people to greet Buehrle in the clubhouse after Wednesday's gem was general manager Ken Williams.
"I wish I had the money [to re-sign Buehrle]," Guillen said.
Buehrle needed little help, but the Sox's struggling offense came to life with three home runs. Jim Thome hit two, and Jermaine Dye hit a grand slam off Kevin Millwood in the fifth.
The Sox had scored only two runs in their previous three games and had a .215 batting average entering Wednesday's game before their breakout. Dye pumped his fist twice and clapped his hands while rounding the bases, and Buehrle hugged him in the dugout.
The night belonged to Buehrle, who was doused with beer by several teammates while conducting a postgame interview after the Sox halted a three-game losing streak.
"It's a great feeling," Guillen said. "We needed that. Buehrle needed that for himself. As a team, I think we were nervous. I heard guys saying they weren't really nervous during the World Series, but they were nervous [tonight]."
Buehrle, who improved to 9-3 lifetime against the Rangers, retreated to the clubhouse between innings and stay out of the sub-40-degree weather.
Buehrle was supported by exceptional defense, including a controversial play that led to the ejection of Jerry Hairston Jr. for the first out of the third.
Crede made a diving stop of Hairston's sharp grounder and immediately threw to first. Paul Konerko made a clean pick of Crede's throw as Hairston dived headfirst into the bag.
First-base umpire James Hoye immediately signaled out, causing Hairston to argue before he retreated to the dugout.
First-base coach Gary Pettis and manager Ron Washington argued before Hoye tossed a stunned Hairston, who darted out of the dugout before he was restrained by second-base umpire/crew chief Mike Reilly.
"I thought it was going to be a foul ball," Crede said. "I dove for it anyway. We looked at the replay and he was out. It was a good play, and the momentum shifted to our side at that point."
In the fifth, second baseman Tadahito Iguchi made a diving stop on the outfield grass to retire Hank Blalock. At that point, the fans began to sense that Buehrle was embarking on history and were vigorously cheering every out.
With one out in the seventh, Ian Kinsler hit a grounder wide of Crede's left. But shortstop Juan Uribe made a backhanded stop and quickly fired to Konerko, who cleanly handled Uribe's one-hop throw for the second out.
In the ninth, with the bottom of the order coming up, Buehrle wasn't taking his success for granted.
"Laird (4-for-11) hit me very well in my career," he said. "I knew until I got the last out it was going to be tough."
Crede took special pleasure in fielding the final out.
"It's either going to be an error or get him out," Crede said. "Either way, it was great to see Mark get it. We moved up together in the minor leagues and we're both from Missouri.
"To me, it's the way he's always pitched, even in the minor leagues. He always kept us in the game and on our toes. He's known for throwing one-hour-50-minute games or two-hour games. And it's fun playing behind him because he keeps you on your toes.
"It was special for me because I came up with him and know how hard he worked."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times