The A’s left town for a week an hour after Dallas Braden’s perfect game on Mother’s Day, leaving many questions about no-hitter etiquette to wait for their return.
I tracked Braden down this afternoon before the A’s hosted Seattle, to pick up some of the particulars. The most controversial play of the game was Evan Longoria’s fifth-inning bunt attempt that ultimately rolled foul. It would have been easy to condemn the strategy had it come later in the game or with a more lopsided score, but even Braden conceded that Longoria was well within his rights.
“It was early in the game, and he was trying to get some things going for his offense,” he said. “Later in the game, maybe with multiple outs, it might be a different story. But I respect what he did. That’s him understanding something has to happen right now, and it has to be sooner rather than later, and he didn’t want to wait around for someone else to get it going. It actually speaks to what kind of a leader he’s trying to become. He’s very savvy, a good player, and he wants to get something going. From a competitor’s standpoint, you have to respect that.”
Longoria’s bunt might have been the most prominent Code-related play, but it had already received considerable attention through the ensuing week. Much less discussed was the no-hitter etiquette observed in the A’s dugout.
Because Braden’s not chatty on days he pitches, especially during the game, it was hardly surprising to find out that his teammates didn’t come anywhere near him as the innings whiled by. (“I did notice that nobody was even looking at me,” he said. “I didn’t make eye contact with one person.”)
He did, however, drop the ball.
Before each inning, plate umpire Jim Wolf tossed a ball to Braden, who, as is his habit, caught it in front of the mound, removed his glove and rubbed it up as he ascended to the rubber.
Until the ninth inning, when he accidentally let it fall.
“(Reliever) Brad Ziegler told me in the shower that out in the bullpen, everybody went ‘Whooooooooa,’ ” Braden said. “He said, ‘I just want to let you know, I watched you drop the ball, and we all lost it out there.’ ”
“It was one of those weird things, because everything else he did that day was, well, perfect,” said reliever Michael Wuertz. “But obviously, thankfully, it didn’t have any effect.”
Even though members of the bullpen were physically separated from Braden, they maintained strict silence when it came to discussing what was happening on the field . . . until Ziegler nearly ruined it in the sixth inning, after Gabe Kapler’s epic 12-pitch at-bat.
Said Ziegler: “I looked down at (fellow reliever) Jerry Blevins and said, ‘Hey . . .’ And Blevins just started shaking his head, like he didn’t want to talk to me. Still, I said, ‘Was Kapler the guy who hit the ball that Dewayne Wise caught in the Buehrle perfect game (in 2009)?” (Kapler’s drive was indeed snared by Wise on the far side of the outfield fence, and returned to the field of play for a perfect-game-saving catch.)
Blevins didn’t respond. Luckily, he didn’t have to.
While nobody referenced the perfect game Braden was throwing, Ziegler received affirmation from the bullpen’s Killer B’s—Bailey, Blevins and Breslow—that it had indeed been Kapler who nearly ruined another perfect game.
The unwritten rule about referencing a no-hitter in progress is vague when it comes to referencing a no-hitter other than the one being thrown. Should someone want to point toward such a thing as a potential jinx, that’s their superstitious right.
In the Code vs. Brad Ziegler, however, the ruling is clearly in Ziegler’s favor. No jinxing was done, so no fingers need be pointed.