Braden’s Gift on Mother’s Day is just….Perfect

 
 
Jed Jacobsohn / Getty
Yogi Berra would have been very proud to watch this Mother’s Day baseball game today. In fact his classic line of “Déjà vu happening all over again” would have been the “perfect” ending to the conclusion of the game. All week long there have been numerous National media members and broadcasters  who have been saying that your team had to be almost perfect to beat the surging Tampa Bay Rays right now.
 
And for one Sunday afternoon, the level of perfection by Oakland A’s starting pitcher Dallas Braden proved to be the right and exclamation point answer to finally trumping the Rays, and securing the first road series victory by an opposing home team from the Rays this season. Coming into today’s game, the Rays boasted an unheard of 13-2 road record, and were 4-1 on their present road trip. 

With an overflowing sea of pink Mother’s Day MLB merchandise scattered across the assorted tables in the Oakland A’s clubhouse, you have to think that primary on Braden’s mind coming into this start was his departed mother, and the maternal grandmother who stood by him in rough times and turned the rebel youth into a prototype model for left-handed perfection. His Grandmother did not teach him to pitch, but she did teach him how to be his own man. And after today, no one will ever remember the “mound” spat with Yankees Third Baseman Alex Rodriguez earlier the 2010 season when absent-minded A-Rod stepped on Braden’s mound during one of his starts.

Now the world will remember Barden for his articulate off-speed pitching that seemed to dazed and confused the Rays. All day long the Rays were caught looking or guessing at the combination of change-ups, sub-90’s mph fastball and a stifling curves thrown at them over the nine innings. Barden never seemed to sweat, or seem remotely nervous in this Mother’s Day start and was still throwing in the ninth inning for the first time of his short MLB career. Along with the “Perfecto”, Braden threw his first complete game of his career on a day that MLB used to celebrate all of our mothers.

 
Jed Jacobsohn / Getty

And firmly planted within Braden’s mind during his pitching performance on Sunday afternoon was the many sacrifices and the pain and suffering shared by his two “Mother-figures” in his life. For Barden’s life might have taken a different path if not for the hardnosed approach by his mother, Jody Atwood during his high school years.  And the light bulb finally came on for Braden during a high school trip to Mexico, he began to see the constant path through his mother’s guidance and talks and made an immediate 180 degree turn in his life choices.


But Atwood was not in the stands today to see the mature and well poised Braden throw his first professional pitching gem as she had succumbed to melanoma cancer while Braden was still in his late teens and turned the ball to her mother Peggy Lindsay. So it was only fitting that Braden was so emotionally charged and focused on the mound today as he wore the pink ribbon over his heart on his A’s jersey. But even more important today was that at no moment in the game did we ever see a crack in his armor, either in his facial expressions or his pinpoint pitching accuracy.

Some will say that he might have been channeling former Athletics southpaw Jim “Catfish” Hunter who only 15,331 days earlier had thrown a similar Perfect game for the Athletics back on May 8, 1968. And this is not to suggest that Braden will transform into the second coming of Hunter, but to even be within  a small piece of that shadow of a Baseball Hall of Fame inductee will do wonders to Braden’s inner confidence as a pitcher, and as a man. And amazingly enough, the final score of that 1968 game was 4-0, the same as today’s final score.

But then some others will say that the always rightious Baseball Gods might have rewarded Braden for his stern discipline of safeguarding the “Unwritten Rules” of the game by his argument with A-Rod today. But the conclusion I  have come up with is divine guidance through physical integrity. This is a guy who was so cool, calm and relatively collected after throwing his last pitch of the game in which Rays Rightfielder Gabe Kapler hit a ball towards A’s shortstop Cliff Pennington who threw to Daric Barton at First Base to secure the perfect game for the left-hander.

 
Jed Jacobsohn / Getty

How ironic is it that within the last year, the Rays have been victims of two different Perfect Games by two outstanding left-handed pitchers. In their July 23,2009 game against Chicago White Sox starter Buehrle, the Rays struck out 6 times in their 27 times to the plate. Interestingly enough, they also struck out 6 times today against Braden. Buehrle threw 116 pitches while Braden only needed 106 to complete the Perfecto. Both pitchers earlky on seemed to be “in the moment” but today, Braden did not need a “big play” to secure his Perfect Game. The closest he got to that was a hard hit line drive by Evan Longoria down the Third Base line that A’s Third Baseman Kevin Kousmanoff took in easily early in the game.


Braden got his own personal revenge on these same Rays who took advantage of his early wildness the last time he faced the Rays on April 28,2010 in Tropicana Field.  On that day Braden also opposed Rays starter James Shields on the mound, but the Rays got to Braden early and chased him from the game after only 88 pitches. The loss he suffered that day ended Braden’s personal three game winning streak. You got to think he mentally put it in the back of his mind for some redemption today to end Shield’s own 4-game winning streak when he took the mound against the Rays today.

It was simply amazing to watch the top of the 9th inning as all 12,228 fans in attendance stood for the entire Rays at bat, then remained standing and becoming more emotionally attached with every single pitch thrown during that final half an inning. For they instantly knew of the impossibility of this moment when Braden came back out to the mound in the top of the ninth inning, and knew the immediate importance of this win that would snap the Rays early season dominance on the road.


Jed Jacobsohn / Getty

It truly did take a tremendous effort on the mound today against the Rays for Braden to eventually have his name mentioned along with Hunters in that elusive collection of Athletic’s outstanding pitching performances and capture this memorable Perfect Game. And if I was in attendance at Oakland/Alameda County Coliseum today, even if I was head-to-toe in Rays gear, I would have stood and cheered along side the huge amount of A’s fans after the conclusion of this sparkling pitching gem.

It is the thought of achieving such levels of perfection that drives some athletes to sweat more, and work increasingly harder within the sport of baseball. And  for an athlete to even have a chance to finally fulfill that destiny, the momentum of the moment and final gasp of breath after achieving that moment is unexplainable. On a Sunday when the entire MLB community is showering the stadiums with support for those special women in our lives, perfection was in Braden’s heart today.
 
And  Braden’s transformation on the mound today was remarkable and makes me want to stand up and cheer loud and proud for him today. Baseball immortality is now shining long and bright on Braden today, or maybe  a few of thowe past motherly influences finally coame to fruition to lighten up this memorable Mother’s Day. 

 
Jed Jacobsohn / Getty

Cherish the moment.

12 Comments

Today’s game was amazing! Once we started to come down to the last few innings, I think I held my breath when we ran into a few close calls. But our defense stood by Braden and stepped up.
Really Nice Blog Entry!
– Opinion4Athletics
http://opinion4athletics.mlblogs.com/

Opinions,
It was a great game to watch.
Of course I would have loved another outcome, but Braden was focused and commited to excellence today.
I still find it wild and facinating it was just a day and 42 years ago when Catfish tossed his own Perfecto.
I just hope Braden’s mother was watching and is truly proud of the man he has become on…and off the mound.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

I was watching some of that game too…and never switched back. I could kick myself! I think it’s great. He just put a little cache in the bank. Can’t wait to see him exert some of his new found glory on ARod now. Should be fun.
mike
http://thebrooklyntrolleyblogger.mlblogs.com/

Mike,
Got to honestly say that I felt a letdown coming, but not to this extent.
The pitching has by far carried the offense so far this season.
When Carl Crawford, B J Upton, BenZobrist and Carlos Pena get hot…..This team might just pull away like they did early on in 2008.
But the offense has to come and get some starting tomorrow night against the Angels.
Still a 4-2 road trip any other time at this point would be a good thing!

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Wow… the Rays sure are gettin’ a bad end of perfect games reputation… and they were almost no-hit by C.C. too? Lady Luck, help ‘em out!
–Jeff
http://redstatebluestate.mlblogs.com/

I was amazed when I read about Braden’s perfecto because the Rays have been so hot. Which goes to prove that it can happen anywhere to any team. Congrats to Braden, although his granny can stick it.

http://janeheller.mlblogs.com

Jeff,
It seems like the Rays right now are caught in that old feast or famine trap.
They either score a boatload of runs, or they get plastered by a great pitching performance.
But that is what you kind of expect out of a team that feels like its hair is on fire and is doing everything possible to win instead of finding a common path and following that to victory.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Jane,
The best and worst thing aboiut baseball is that on any given day, a blowout or a miracle can happen. No matter if they are young or old, a player can achieve a huge feat in a matter of 2 1/2 hours that will stand the test of time, or go down wearing a golden Sombrero.
But that is also the reason I love this game. You can go from the penthouse to the outhouse at any moment with just a flick of the wrist…literally.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

tears in my eyes. what an emotional moment and day for that family. and all families who have lost a loved one to cancer. we will be seeing the PG for years to come. Braden was looked at as a “scrub” when he jawed at A-Rod i think this will shut up most of those people
http://pittpeas.mlblogs.com

cliff,
Wonderful tribute to the perfecto. Hey! This week our FB teams meet up again!
Emma
http://crzblue.mlblogs.com

Matt,
I think it was a kiss of karma from the Baseball Gods myself to a guy who want to be remebered as following the rules of the game.
But his being a left-handed pitcher did play into this great feat too.
The ball was hitting his spots perfectly and the Home Plate Umpire wasn’t giving him any leeway at all, even in the ninth inning.
You might remember he alsmost lost the Perfecto duirng Gabe Kapler’s long extended at bat, but Kapler fell victim to his off-speed stuff finally.
Starting to think if there is a game like this…Kapler is in the lineup…..Hmmmmm?

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Emma,
Really have not been too overly anxious about the MLBlogger’s Fantasy League since our Commissioner committed his faux paux involving two DL players.
I pop on once a day to set the roster, then forget it.
I am in Frist Palce in my other 4 teams in various leagues, so I am not interested in retaining the title of a league that has a Commissioner who acts like Bud Selig.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

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