Friday, April 20, 2007

No Hits, No Runs...One Walk. Damn.

Mark Buehrle just tossed a freakin' no-hitter.

Are you listening Kenny Williams?

While the no-no will certainly kick-state the debate over whether the Sox should've just shown Buehrle the money in spite of his mediocre second half in 2006, I prefer to take the KW "Live in the moment" approach. Does nobody in Sox Nation realize this team probably has the most aggressive, instinctual, baseball-savvy GM not named Billy Beane? As evidenced by the fine start of John Danks vs. Brandon "7.56 ERA" McCarthy, as long Kenny sits in the GM chair, the franchise will have a stability and continuity that will rival what the Braves accomplished in the '90s and Oakland is accomplishing right now. Is that not enough?

Buehrle was pure magic on Wednesday night, using his trademark 89-MPH heat to simply be better than 27 hitters who stepped up to the dish. This was no cheapy of a no-hitter, featuring 9 walks or 3 wild pitches or 5 errors. Buerhle issued only one free pass the whole night, which he promptly erased when Sammy Sosa was caught napping at first. Once again the whole AL should take notice: run on Mark at your own risk. That's 48 pickoffs in his career. He led the majors in that category even in the midst of a below-average '06 season.

Of course Mark needed plenty of help behind him. He's not a power pitcher, which explains why he languished into the 38th round of the Draft. He'll let batters put the ball in play. They just usually don't know what to do with it once he does, particularly when he has the cutter working like he did on Wednesday. Joe Crede made an amazing play (and got the benefit of the doubt on an ├╝ber-close call at 1st) on a Jerry Hairston bouncer down the line. Jermaine Dye used his 6'5" reach to pull back a Hank Blalock home run. Tadahito Iguchi made a terrific dive and throw to retire Blalock in the 5th. And Juan Uribe picked up Crede after he lunged and missed on an Ian Kinsler shot into the hole at short. Which begs the question - where the hell was that defense tonight, turning a 5-1 victory over the Tigers into a 5-4 nailbiter? Just goes to show the razor-thin difference between near-perfection and just another night at the ballpark.

The good news for the Sox isn't just that Buehrle tossed a no-hitter - it's that the pitching staff that was under so much scrutiny just two games into the season has quickly answered the bell and returned to the elite of the American League. Here's hoping the Sox bats kick it into gear soon - this 2007 campaign could be something special after all. It already has one keepsake moment.