As fate would have it I got to see Philip Humber’s first start of the season. It was a rather non-descript outing, he threw 115 pitches, gave up 6 hits and was in line for the win. Hector Santiago blew the save and Zach Stewart threw gas on that fire in the tenth and the Sox lost 10-4. It was a cold night and I remember that and the fight we saw much more than Humber’s performance.
One start later and Philip Humber is part of baseball history, becoming the 21st man to throw a perfect game. The temptation is to say I just missed seeing a perfect game, but that’s not accurate. There are so many factors that go into a perfect game that to characterize it as he was just one start away, just a few adjustments away is just ridiculous. As much as I try not to over sentimentalize baseball, to varying degrees of success, a perfect game is made special, sentimental even simply by virtue of its uniqueness. In the case of Philip Humber it is even more of a romantic baseball story. A former number one draft pick who has bounced around from team to team, now has a game for the ages and an appearance on David Letterman for good measure. I suppose I don’t mind a perfect game being lavished over and dominating a sports section the next day because not only does it have that “baseball is special” quality about it, it is quite frankly a remarkable performance that comes around like a comet, especially in the life of a pitcher. The place of perfect games can be debated, which one was the most dominant, the most important and such, but it is almost impossible to argue that it wasn’t an incredible performance; a fluke maybe, but masterful nonetheless.
I almost missed the perfect game, to be honest, let down and saved by technology. My MLB audio wasn’t available for the entire game so I couldn’t listen to it as I did laundry that afternoon. I had the game tivo’d so there wasn’t a sense of urgency to listen or find a tv somewhere else. I found out about the perfect game because as we were wrapping up the laundry, I was already pretty worn out and figured I wasn’t going to watch the game anyway, so I might as well check the score. I flipped through the box scores on my phone, found the Sox and saw that they won; a shutout, nice! Then I looked and saw that Seattle had no hits as well as no runs. I double checked to see if the game was still going on, maybe a delay of some kind, but no nine innings all zeros. I finally checked into Twitter and all of my news feed was buzzing over the perfect game.
Normally, after finding out the result of a game, as was my plan Saturday, I don’t even bother with the recorded game and free up memory for my DVR, have to save all of those Game of Thrones don’t you know? Not this time, however. After everyone was safely tucked away in their beds, wife included, I turned on the game and enjoyed every minute. What made it particularly fun, though the announcers were god awful, was listening to the broadcasters’ excitement build after the fifth inning. Even though I knew what was coming, I still felt nervous in the ninth inning and I was sort of glad that I didn’t see it live or I would have been a nervous wreck. All the same, I loved seeing AJ make that final play and wondered how he always manages to be around some of the most dramatic dropped third strikes in baseball. After I watched the final out a few more times, it was well past midnight and my plans for an early night completely dashed, but it was worth it, even if it was about six hours too late.