Braden pitched the 19th perfect game in major league history on Sunday, shutting down the majors’ hottest team and leading the Oakland Athletics to a 4-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.
Braden threw his arms in the air after Gabe Kapler grounded out to shortstop for the final out, his simmering feud with Yankees star Alex Rodriguez merely a footnote to the first perfect game for Oakland in 42 years.
The closest the Rays got to a hit was Jason Bartlett’s liner to third leading off the game. Evan Longoria tried to bunt against Braden leading off the fifth, drawing boos from the small crowd.
“It’s without a doubt a team effort,” Braden said. “You got eight guys out there chasing balls and knocking balls down for me. So this is ours, not just mine, this is ours.”
Before this gem, Braden was best known for his enraged reaction to Rodriguez walking across the mound back on April 22, when he beat Yankees ace CC Sabathia. He screamed at A-Rod after the incident and was still angry after the game, advising the slugger “to go do laps in the bullpen” if he wanted to run across the mound.
The squabble was still making news leading up this start, and they were going back and forth in recent days. On Friday in Boston, Rodriguez said he didn’t want “to extend his extra 15 minutes of fame.”
He struck a far more conciliatory tone Sunday.
“I’ve learned in my career that it’s always better to be remembered for some of the good things you do on the field, and good for him,” Rodriguez said before facing Boston. “He threw a perfect game. And, even better, he beat the Rays.”
It was the majors’ first perfect game since Mark Buehrle did it for the White Sox against the Rays on July 23, and the second no-hitter this season after Colorado’s Ubaldo Jimenez pulled it off in Atlanta on April 17.
Braden pitched the A’s first perfect game since Hall of Famer Jim “Catfish” Hunter’s gem on May 8, 1968, against the Minnesota Twins. Only 6,298 were there to witness it. Sunday’s crowd at the Coliseum wasn’t much better: 12,228.
Braden (4-2) wasn’t fazed by anything, throwing two-strike changeups and getting quick outs against a Rays team that lost on the road for just the third time this year. He struck out six in the 109-pitch performance, throwing 77 strikes in his 53rd career start and first complete game.
Braden’s teammates mobbed him when the Mother’s Day masterpiece was over, leaving bats and gloves scattered on the field. The left-hander pointed to the sky in honor of his mom, Jodie Atwood, who died of cancer when he was a high school senior. He shared a long and tearful hug with his grandma, Peggy Lindsey, the woman who raised him, in front of the dugout.
“It hasn’t been a joyous day for me in a while,” Braden said. “With my Grandma in the stands it makes it a lot better.”
Braden’s perfect game was the sixth no-hitter in Oakland history. The 26-year-old Braden, a native of nearby Stockton, was a 24th-round draft pick by the A’s in 2004.
Last Mother’s Day, Braden was hit by a line drive by Vernon Wells.
“You know, a year later you don’t expect anything like this,” he said. “I’m just happy to be putting on the costume a year later.”
The A’s defense didn’t even have to make a really tough play in fair territory.
Third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff sprinted to the dirt in front of Oakland’s dugout to catch a foul popup by Dioner Navarro for the second out in the sixth. Kapler then fouled out on a 12-pitch at-bat on another ball caught by Kouzmanoff. Navarro fouled off five straight pitches before the popup.
Landon Powell — who caught the game with regular catcher Kurt Suzuki injured — Kouzmanoff and Ryan Sweeney each singled in runs for the A’s, who added two unearned runs in the fourth after catcher Navarro’s throwing error. Daric Barton had three hits and scored twice for Oakland.