OAKLAND, Calif. -- On the one-year anniversary of his perfect game, Mark Buehrle did something even harder for him to accomplish.
Buehrle won in Oakland for the first time in his career, pitching a complete-game 5-1 victory against the team that has given him fits over 10 previous starts. It improved the left-hander’s overall record to 4-12 against the A’s.
It was such a momentous occasion that when Buehrle and catcher A.J. Pierzynski met in front of the mound after the last out, Buehrle reached out to shake hands while Pierzynski went in for a hug. Buehrle would have none of it.
“With two outs he was shaking his hands [from behind home plate],” Buehrle said of his catcher, with the implication being that Buehrle was getting nervous on the cusp of a complete game. “I said ‘It’s my second one in a row.’ He forgot about the last one [in Minnesota]. That’s why he was being a smart [aleck].”
Wednesday’s defeat might not have looked good, but the players were as loose as ever two days later.
Best of all for the White Sox, there was no need for a closer, or any reliever for that matter, when Buehrle was so efficient and the offense was tacking on some late-inning insurance runs. Buehrle needed 101 pitches to shut down the A’s.
With closer Bobby Jenks struggling and manager Ozzie Guillen saying he would go to somebody else the next time the game is on the line, a backup plan wasn’t needed.
What Friday’s victory showed was that the White Sox haven’t been affected by their recent heartbreaking defeats. The latest of those came Wednesday in a 2-1 loss to the Seattle Mariners when Jenks failed to hold a 1-0 lead in the 11th inning.
Thursday’s off day could have left the White Sox replaying the defeat over and over again in their heads. But where the Bay Area has meant bad things for White Sox teams in the past, it was the perfect venue for the day off as some members of the traveling party went fishing on the Pacific Ocean, while another group that included Buehrle went to wine country in Napa.
“I think our thing is not worry about what you did yesterday,” Guillen said. “Today is a new game. We don’t take anything for granted. Most of the time when you lose a game like that you have a tendency to say, ‘What’s going on?’ This team is great.
“When you lose a game like that, then have a day off and Buehrle’s pitching, you feel pretty good.”
On Sunday at Minnesota, Jenks was charged with four runs in the ninth inning as the Twins rallied for a victory. In that case, the White Sox came right back and beat the Mariners in consecutive games.
Assuming the White Sox get though the A’s in fine fashion this weekend, they will have to do something about this perception that it’s a weak strength of schedule that is propping up the team in the standings.
The White Sox are a major-league best 29-9 since June 9 and, sure, some of those victories came against the weaklings of both leagues, but there are also triumphs over the Texas Rangers, the crosstown Cubs and a sweep over the Atlanta Braves, who opened play Friday with the best record in the National League.
After the two games at Oakland this weekend, the White Sox get Seattle and Oakland again at home. Then it’s five against the Tigers at Detroit and six against the Twins in a nine-day stretch in the middle of August when the White Sox can show what kind of team they truly have.
BY THE NUMBERS
3: Times Buehrle has pitched back-to back complete games after accomplishing the feat Friday. He went the distance in his previous start last Saturday at Minnesota. He also did it in August of 2001 and in September of 2004. It was the 26th complete game of his career.
“We used Bobby Jenks three out of four games [before Friday]. I forgot about that. I think that’s the reason we try to keep the guys fresh. I talked to Buehrle after the long [seventh] inning and he said he felt fine to come back and do what he did,” Guillen, on Buehrle’s complete game giving the bullpen another day off.
Freddy Garcia (9-3, 4.37) will face off against the A’s on Saturday looking once again for that 10th victory that eluded him in Minnesota over the weekend. He allowed three runs over six innings to the Twins and was in line to get the victory before Bobby Jenks and Sergio Santos failed to protect a three-run lead in the ninth inning. Garcia is 6-0 over his last nine starts with a 3.37 ERA.
Garcia will face off against Oakland’s Vin Mazarro (5-2, 3.50), who has allowed one run in three of his last four starts and has a 3-0 record with a 1.93 ERA over that stretch.