Philip Humber, a 29-year-old right-hander making his second start of the season, etched himself into baseball immortality Saturday afternoon at Safeco Field, throwing the 21st perfect game in major-league history as the Chicago White Sox blanked Seattle, 4-0.
With a crowd of 22,472 standing as one in the ninth inning, Humber struck out Michael Saunders, then faced pinch-hitter John Jaso, standing in for struggling Miguel Olivo. Jaso hit a high fly to right field, squeezed by Alex Rios.
Then came pinch-hitter Brendan Ryan, for Munenori Kawasaki. Ryan stretched the count to 3-2, and on what is certain to be a controversial finish, plate umpire Brian Runge ruled Ryan's checked swing to be a strike. The ball got away from catcher A.J. Pierzynski, but he tracked it down behind him to his right, threw to first baseman Paul Konerko, and it was done.
Ryan, complaining bitterly, flung his helmet off at the Runge call.
There wasn't even much in the way of chances for the M's. Dustin Ackley hit a hard grounder to second base in the first inning, and had the home club's best-struck ball in the fourth, when he lined deep to right. But it was flagged down by Rios.
The tension built into the seventh inning, when Humber fanned Chone Figgins on a high fastball, retired Dustin Ackley on a high pop to shortstop, and disposed of Ichiro on a harmless bouncer to first base.
Pitch count wouldn't be a problem for Humber on this day. In the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, he threw an astonishing total of 20 pitches -- eight, six and six, bringing him to just 69 after seven innings. In his only other start this season, Humber threw 115 pitches in an outing that lasted 5-1/3 innings (with six hits and a run) against Baltimore five days earlier.
In the eighth, Humber struck out Justin Smoak on a diving breaking ball, got Kyle Seager to line to left to defensive replacement Brent Lillibridge, who backhanded the ball on a relatively routine play, and set down Jesus Montero on a weak grounder to second. He had three outs to go.
The White Sox pounded Blake Beavan in the second and third innings, giving Humber plenty of cushion. Mariners killer Paul Konerko drilled a Beavan pitch over the left-field wall leading off the second inning, giving him 31 career homers against the M's, a number second among active players only to the 32 by Alex Rodriguez.
Konerko came into the game hitting .405 against the M's in his last 21 games against them.
He was in the middle of things when the White Sox added two more in the third. Gordon Beckham singled against Beavan leading off, and after an out, Brent Morel singled on a liner that seemed to fool Seager at third base.
After Adam Dunn flied out, Konerko laced a single off the left-field wall, scoring Beckham, and Morel came around on Pierzynski's single to right, making it 3-0.
The White Sox got their final run in the ninth on Alejandro De Aza's single.
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