Buehrle's wizardry reaches another level
Remarkable flip joins lefty's list of spectacular moments
CHICAGO -- Just when it looked as if Mark Buehrle couldn't pull off any more surprises in what already has to be considered one of the most illustrious pitching careers in White Sox history, the left-hander reached back and hit an absolute sublime level during Monday's 6-0 whitewash of the Indians on Opening Day at U.S. Cellular Field.
The White Sox held a 4-0 lead in the fifth with one out when Lou Marson hit a shot back toward the mound. Buehrle stuck out his left foot in an attempt to stop the ground ball, only to have it strike his left shin and roll toward the first-base line.
Buehrle raced after the ricochet, avoided colliding with Marson and grabbed the ball with his glove. Then, the play just became ridiculous.
Buehrle flipped the ball with his glove between his legs -- sort of like one of those remarkable Roger Federer winners on the tennis court. This no-look, glove-hand flip ended up being a perfect strike to first baseman Paul Konerko, who caught the ball with his bare hand.
This effort astonished Buehrle's teammates and the Indians alike.
"Unbelievable," said Cleveland right fielder Shin-Soo Choo. "I think that was the best play I've ever seen. I thought he had no chance."
"He made a good play. A really good play," Marson said.
"Whether it's pitching, fielding, whatever it takes, he gets it done," said White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski of his batterymate for the past six seasons. "He just has a knack for doing great things."
This last part of Pierzynski's comments would be considered a true understatement where the list of Buehrle's greatness is concerned.
Reach the Majors fewer than two years after being selected in the 38th round of the 1998 First-Year Player Draft? Check.
Make at least 30 starts, throw at least 200 innings and win in double-digits during each of his nine years as a starter? Mark that off the list also.
All-Star appearances, a no-hitter, a perfect game, start a World Series game and save the next one and earn a Gold Glove -- all of them are part of Buehrle's resume, which includes a career mark of 136-97.
And these accomplishments belong to a crafty veteran who once joked that he would retire if his fastball reached 90 mph. One of Buehrle's pitches actually showed up at 107 on the U.S. Cellular Field scoreboard speed gun Monday, but clearly, that pitch was a malfunction more than another amazing Buehrle feat.
Along with Monday's web gem, Buehrle's steady mound effort deserves credit. He allowed only one Cleveland runner to go as far as second base over his seven scoreless innings, while giving up three singles. One was of the bloop variety from Travis Hafner leading off the second, and Mark Grudzielanek reached on an infield single to open the third.
Simply put, Buehrle set the tone for the Opening Day victory in every facet of the game but offensively. By the way, the light-hitting Buehrle also has a home run to his credit ranking just below Monday's spectacular moment on his personal list of shockers.
"When stuff like that happens, it surprised me just like it did 40,000 people here today," Buehrle said. "It's one of those when you are running over to do, you see a play happening, you are saying, 'Do I slide and spin or grab the ball and throw it?' Every thought went through my head but that one."
"Typical Buehrle, any pitch at any time, mixing it up, throwing the ball in, throwing the ball out, throwing changeups, cutters, curveballs," Pierzynski said. "He threw it all and his ball was sinking today. When his ball is sinking, he's as tough as anybody."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.