A's pitcher Stockton native Dallas Braden hurls perfect game

OAKLAND -- Dallas Braden's 15 minutes of fame got a serious extension Sunday -- into baseball eternity.

The Oakland A's left-hander, who was critical of Yankees' star Alex Rodriguez for taking a shortcut over the mound en route back to the dugout April 22 in Oakland, pitched the 19th perfect game in major league history while beating the Tampa Bay Rays 4-0 at the Coliseum.

Facing the same club that battered him for six runs during a 10-3 loss on April 28, the 26-year-old from Stockton baffled the Rays with a 109-pitch effort in which he went to three-ball counts on only four hitters while striking out six.

"I didn't feel like I was throwing any harder, because I definitely wasn't," said Braden, whose perfect game was also his first major league complete game. "I didn't feel like the changeup was any better, because it definitely wasn't. You know, they just hit 'em where they were today."

Perhaps the closest Tampa Bay got to a hit was the first batter of the game. Jason Bartlett's soft line drive behind third base was speared by Kevin Kouzmanoff, then Braden recorded the next 26 outs without a lot of trouble.

Eric Patterson caught two hard-hit balls to left, and Kouzmanoff made a spectacular grab while falling into the dugout of a foul pop off the bat of Carlos Peña for the second out in the eighth inning.

The A's scored four early runs to set up what was about as routine a 27-up, 27-down effort as one could imagine.

"I didn't think they really hit anything hard at all," A's manager Bob Geren said.

With Braden's grandmother Peggy Lindsey sitting near the A's dugout and a crowd of 12,228 on its feet cheering -- many of them in Braden's specially designated Section 209, the area code of his hometown of Stockton -- the pitcher got the final out on a 3-1 pitch to Gabe Kapler, who hit a routine grounder to shortstop Cliff Pennington.

"It was like, 'Oh God, here we go,' " Pennington said.

Seconds after Pennington's throw was caught by first baseman Daric Barton, Braden was mobbed by his teammates. He subsequently sprinted to the stands and hugged his grandmother.

Braden's perfecto came 42 years and one day after Hall of Famer Jim "Catfish" Hunter pitched a perfect game for Oakland on May 8, 1968 against the Minnesota Twins at the Coliseum in the A's first season in the city. That score also was 4-0.

"Just to be mentioned in the same breath as that guy, it's pretty cool, pretty awesome," Braden said.

Until the final out against the Rays, Braden was known mostly for yelling at A-Rod, who ran across the pitcher's mound while returning to first base after a foul ball.

Rodriguez belittled Braden's career accomplishments immediately after that game, and when Braden had more critical comments of A-Rod this week, the Yankees third baseman had a terse response, saying, "I really don't want to extend Braden's 15 minutes of fame."

After learning of Braden's performance Sunday in Boston, where the Yankees were playing the Red Sox, Rodriguez told ESPN: "I've learned in my career, it is much better to be recognized for all the great things you do on the field. Good for him, he threw a perfect game. And better yet, he beat the Rays."

Braden didn't want to discuss A-Rod on Sunday. Asked how he thought Rodriguez and the Yankees might react, he said, "I really don't care." Lindsey echoed her grandson's sentiments but added, "I'm thinking, 'Let's forget it. And stick it, A-Rod.' "

Braden preferred to dedicate his Mother's Day masterpiece to Lindsey, his guiding light after his mother, Jodie Atwood, died in 2001 from cancer while he was a senior at Stagg High in Stockton.

"That's the biggest thing, to give her something like this on a day of this magnitude considering everything we've been through together," he said. "It's more about her for me."

Landon Powell, who caught Braden's gem, said the pitcher had everything working for him, particularly his fastball.

"Dallas has four above-average pitches, but obviously, his changeup is his out pitch," Powell said. "He does a real good job of locating his fastball in and out, and today I think the biggest thing is that he was locating his fastball in, which really kept the hitters from leaning out over the plate. It made his changeup even better."

Said Braden: "I think that's the key to me ever having success. I'm not going to blow anything by anybody. I'm not going to dominate a lineup, if you will. I just need them to not square it up."

Braden said he wasn't that nervous as he went to the mound in the ninth inning, even though he said his last no-hitter came in Little League.

"No other extraordinary feeling, I guess," he said. "Just don't let your team down, let's get three outs and get a win."

Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon took a whimsical view of Braden's feat.

"That's the third perfect game and fourth no-hitter I've been on the wrong side of," Maddon said. "If you want to see another one, just follow me around."

Braden's toughest out was arguably Kapler in the sixth inning. Kapler engaged the pitcher in a 12-pitch at-bat that included a foul ball of home run distance. Finally, Kapler hit a foul pop snared by Kouzmanoff.

Related stories from Merced Sun-Star