Wow. Just wow. There couldn’t possibly have been a better mother’s day gift for all the mothers who are baseball fans out there than Dallas Braden’s tour de force performance today. On the day that so many major leaguers were sporting nifty pinks bats and pink sweat bands, Braden dished up the second perfect game in Oakland history, and just the 19th in major league history. From a betting perspective a perfect game is meaningless unless you have a way to predict it in advance, but it’s still pretty much the most impressive thing you can see in baseball. Add in the storyline about Braden’s grandmother – his mother died when he was in school, so his grandmother raised him. He still lives with her, and today she was there to see it. Great stuff.
I managed to get home from mother’s day festivities with my mother-in-law in time to catch the last four innings of the performance. I’m obviously glad I did, as are, I’m sure, the 12,000 people who showed up for the game, and the tens of thousands of others who will say that they were there for years to come. The most impressive part of the performance came in the first inning I saw. Braden and Gabe Kapler had an epic battle – a 12 pitch duel. Through it all Braden just looked more and more determined, and he got tougher and tougher. I really think that that was the turning point on the game – he had to feel that once he got through that moment he could get through anything. We learned earlier this week that Braden is a bit of a loose cannon who can let his emotions run away from him, so it’s particularly impressive that he was able to handle this situation with such poise and confidence.
There’s another moment that will stick out when I think about this one – the last at bat. It was Kapler again. there were three balls already on the board when Braden delivered what turned out to be the capping pitch. It was clearly outside the strike zone, but Kapler swatted at it and grounded out to shortstop. We’ll never know, and it’s probably not likely, but part of me will always wonder if Kapler swung because he didn’t want to be the guy who walked and wrecked a perfect game.
Two final betting angles to throw out there. First, I wonder what price you could have gotten last year if you had been willing to bet that the Rays would be the victim of perfect games twice in less than 10 months. That’s just barely short of impossible. Second, Mark Buehrle threw the last perfect game last year. In his next start he allowed five earned runs in six and a third innings, and struggled with his control all day en route to a loss. A trend? Not with that sample size, but I’d probably lean towards playing against Braden next time out – at this point, anyway.