Baseball marvels at Braden's perfect game

Baseball marvels at Braden's perfect game

Dallas Braden will no longer be known simply as the guy who told Alex Rodriguez to stay away from the pitcher's mound.

Thanks to 27 consecutive outs on a magical Mother's Day in Oakland, the obscure-yet-brash left-hander from nearby Stockton, Calif., -- "The 209," as he refers to his old stomping grounds -- made sheer perfection his newest claim to fame.

Not many non-A's fans knew much about Braden -- he of 17 wins in four seasons heading into his Sunday afternoon start -- until he lashed out at A-Rod for breaking what he deemed an unwritten rule of baseball on April 22. But after A's shortstop Cliff Pennington gobbled up Gabe Kapler's ninth-inning grounder, thus securing the 19th perfect game in Major League history, it's safe to assume Braden will be granted much more than his 15 minutes of fame.

In fact, 24 hours later, Braden's perfect game, and all that came with it, was still the talk around baseball on Monday -- and that may not go away any time soon.

"I got a little choked up last night after that last out when his grandma came out on the field," said Blue Jays lefty Dana Eveland, who played with Braden the previous two seasons in Oakland, where the two California products developed a strong friendship.

"I texted him last night to say, 'Congratulations.' Then I sent him another one this morning saying, 'Are you alive?' Because I figured last night was probably a pretty good party in Stockton. He's alive. I saw him on TV this morning."

After retiring all 27 Rays batters in order -- six via the strikeout -- Braden exuberantly paced around the mound he previously agreed was his island with a frozen fist pump before being embraced by ecstatic teammates.

"That's cool," Rangers starter Rich Harden, a teammate of Braden's with the A's from 2007-08, said Sunday. "I'm happy for the guy. He's got some great stuff."

Dallas Braden, Perfect Game

Then, as he walked toward the dugout, he pointed up at the stands for his grandmother, Peggy Lindsey -- the one who cared for Braden after his mom passed away when he was a teenager -- and the two shared a long, emotional embrace.

"They were always really, really close, so that was really cool," Eveland said. "I'm really happy for him."

Rockies right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez doesn't know Braden, but now they have a kinship as the only two pitchers to hurl no-hitters this season.

Jimenez threw the season's first no-no on April 17 against the Braves. On Sunday, Jimenez had borderline no-hit stuff when he held the Dodgers to one run on two hits in seven innings, but took his first loss of the season, 2-0, in Los Angeles. When he entered the Dodger Stadium visitors' clubhouse, he saw the report that Braden had just thrown a perfect game in a 4-0 win over Tampa Bay.

"It's great to see somebody else doing it, especially a perfect game -- he's been blessed," Jimenez said. "It's not easy to have one of those.

"It's not even easy to throw three or four innings without a hit. Anyone can get a hit, even a pitcher, and they don't have a pitcher hitting. Like I said, God wanted you to have one of those."

Pitching in front of 12,228 fans at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, Braden needed 109 pitches (77 of which were strikes) to hurl the first perfect game since Mark Buehrle did it against those same Rays on July 23 of last year, and the first in A's history since Catfish Hunter on May 8, 1968.

"I feel good about my no-hitter, but a perfect game, there is nothing like that," said Marlins starter Anibal Sanchez, who hurled a no-no as a rookie in '06. "That's being perfect. No walks. I'm proud for him."

Braden -- 4-2 with a 3.33 ERA in seven starts this season -- isn't necessarily equipped with what baseball experts would call dominant stuff, but he relied on an inside fastball, deceiving changeup and great control for his gem on Sunday, as he started off 17 of the 27 hitters he faced with first-pitch strikes.

"He has to really pitch to do something that special," said Brewers third-base coach Brad Fischer, who was in his final season as the A's bullpen coach when Braden arrived in the Majors in '07. "He's not just going to go out and blow them away. The fact he put a whole game together like that is very impressive."

Fischer admitted that "some alarms went off" when he first met Braden and saw "209" scribbled on his cleats, but he eventually learned that "he's a good kid."

It didn't take very long for him to realize he's a tough one, too.

"I don't think there was ever any doubt about his makeup," Fischer said. "He's a tough kid. He was never fearful, and I think that works to his benefit. I'm happy for him. They're never going to be able to take that away."

Even his former teammate, Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier, who played with Braden in the A's organization at Double-A Midland took note of his makeup.

"I remember him as a wild guy, full of energy, and every time he pitched he got the job done. He competed and you could count on him pitching a good game.

After it was all said and done, the 26-year-old called the pinnacle of his young Major League career "pretty cool" and "pretty special."

Yeah, no kidding.

"To see the madness that has ensued since, it's surreal," said Marlins reliever Dan Meyer, a former A's pitcher who roomed with Braden at Triple-A and in the big leagues, even staying at his grandmother's house one time. "I heard he did the 'Today Show.' I'm proud of him. Not only was he a teammate, he's a real good friend of mine. To accomplish something that has only been done 19 times in the history of Major League Baseball, it's amazing."

The Brewers found out about Braden's performance when it flashed on the scoreboard at Chase Field on Sunday. Then, after that game, catcher Gregg Zaun was made aware of Braden's story -- how his mother, Jodie Atwood, died of skin cancer when he was a senior in high school and his grandmother singlehandedly put him on the right path -- and had a typical reaction.

"Stunning," Zaun said. "What a great story. I saw it up there on the scoreboard, and he pumped his fist, and then I saw, 'Perfect game.' It's like, 'Whoa.'"

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for Several reporters contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.