ST. PETERSBURG -- Early on, all that is really noticed is the strong rhythm that has been established. As a pitcher moves deeper into a brilliant performance, though, it becomes impossible not to notice when a flirtation with history finds its way onto the field.
Indians catcher Yan Gomes noticed as he stood from his crouch and headed back to the dugout midway through Cody Anderson's start in the Tribe's 7-1 win over the Rays on Monday night. The rookie right-hander was not just handcuffing Tampa Bay's offense, but the kid with only three Triple-A starts to his credit was improbably pitching a perfect game.
"The game was going by so fast," Gomes said. "You look up there and it's like, 'Oh.'"
While Anderson did not complete the feat, the righty did set down the first 19 batters he faced before flinching against Rays outfielder Grady Sizemore. Of course, it would be Sizemore, too. The former Indians star haunted his old club with a towering one-out homer to Tropicana Field's right-field seats in the seventh inning.
Len Barker (May 15, 1981) and Addie Joss (Oct. 2, 1908) remain the only Cleveland pitchers to pitch a perfect game.
Anderson was not overly concerned with that bit of trivia.
"I'm just out there trying to win," said the 24-year-old starter.
Win, Anderson did.
Behind eight stellar innings, Anderson notched his first Major League victory. He did so with a similar fastball-changeup mix to the one he displayed in his debut on June 21, when he took a no-decision after 7 2/3 shutout innings against the Rays. This time around, Anderson relied more on his cutter and less on his curve, keeping the Rays guessing and inducing weak contact.
Anderson did not overpower Tampa Bay in his second big league outing -- he only registered two strikeouts on the night -- but he got 12 flyouts, nine groundouts and one lineout.
"The kid, he's coming up here ready to pitch, ready to earn a spot," Gomes said. "He had three really good pitches today, from his fastball to his slider-cutter to his changeup. They were all working."
With one out in the seventh, Sizemore lifted a 1-2 fastball from Anderson to right field to break up the perfect game with one swing. Evan Longoria followed with a single to left field, where a fielding error by Michael Brantley allowed the runner to advance to third. At that juncture, Cleveland was clinging to a 2-1 lead.
Rather than turn to his bullpen, Indians manager Terry Francona stuck with the rookie.
"He had pitched so well," Francona said. "And then, all of a sudden, because of the score, you're a mistake away from having a tie game. That can be difficult, but he deserved to be out there and his stuff was still good."
Anderson repaid his manager's confidence by inducing a groundout off the bat of David DeJesus, and following with an inning-ending flyout against Logan Forsythe. The right-hander then stayed on the hill for one more frame, setting the Rays down in order and punctuating his performance with a strikeout of Marc Krauss.
Asked if he could have scripted his first two Major League starts any better, Anderson smiled.
"I don't think so," he said. "It's been a rush. I've been able to settle in. The guys have been great to me. It's been a lot of fun."