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Oakland A's pitcher Dallas Braden throws perfect game against Tampa Bay Rays

Athletics pitcher Dallas Braden gets mobbed near the mound after finishing off a perfect game, the second thrown against the Rays in two years.

Associated Press

Athletics pitcher Dallas Braden gets mobbed near the mound after finishing off a perfect game, the second thrown against the Rays in two years.

OAKLAND, Calif. — The Rays had seen this before. It was just last July, an afternoon series finale in Chicago. Another crafty, quick-working left-hander, the White Sox's Mark Buehrle, on the mound. And nothing doing at the plate.

Sunday, stunningly, it happened again.

Facing Oakland's Dallas Braden, the Rays did not get a hit, did not get a walk, did not get a baserunner. All they did get was the notation of having the 18th and 19th perfect games in major-league history thrown against them, and in a span of less than 10 months.

"It's got to be a new major-league record of some kind," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "A very undesirable major-league record."

Naturally, it was. Of the three teams that have had more than one perfect game thrown against them, the Rays managed it twice in the shortest span.

"We're lucky," catcher Dioner Navarro said.

The Rays seemed almost numb to the dubiousness of the "accomplishment" in the 4-0 defeat. Whereas they talked after the July 23 game in Chicago of being embarrassed, Sunday they seemed more resigned to their fate and were big into the mantra that it counted as just one loss, just their ninth against 22 wins, still the majors' best record.

"It's going to happen," centerfielder B.J. Upton said. "You'd like for it not to happen, but that's just the way it is. … You don't like to be no-hit, but it's still just a loss."

The Rays made sure to heavily praise Braden, a 26-year-old who until Sunday was most known for taking issue with Alex Rodriguez running across the mound. They raved about his control (first-pitch strikes to 17 of their 27 hitters) and his ability to mix pitches and vary speeds (clocked from 68-90 mph) and keep them off-balance all day. Maddon even signed and sent over his lineup card to Braden.

"The guy had the pitches when he needed them," third baseman Evan Longoria said. "I didn't see two pitches in the same spot the whole game. And that was the same way Buehrle was on the day he did it. He had something special going."

But they also blamed themselves.

"Of course their pitcher had something to do with it," Maddon said, "but I thought a lot of it was self-inflicted."

Several times in his postgame remarks, Maddon noted the Rays didn't play with their "typical energy," suggesting it was the result of having back-to-back day games in the middle of a long trip. (And leaving open to speculation that it may have had something to do with the team having Saturday night off in San Francisco.)

"We just looked flat from the beginning and it just proceeded throughout the day," Maddon said.

There was also talk of their approach at the plate. With the offense already in a major funk — a .189 overall average for their past nine games (though they are 5-4) — they were swinging at pitches they shouldn't have, expanding their strike zones and disregarding their usual patience, and it showed. So much for Get The (Man) In; how about Get A (Man) On?

"Our approach," hitting coach Derek Shelton said, "was not real consistent."

The Rays, who were no-hit into the eighth by the Yankees' CC Sabathia on April 10, didn't even have many close calls against Braden, basically hitting two balls hard — liners to left by Jason Bartlett, in the seventh, and Navarro, in the ninth.

"That's about it," Maddon said. "The other balls were really weakly hit or chasing balls outside the zone."

They struck out six times, grounded out seven times, popped out three times (including once when third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff made a running catch on the edge of the dugout steps). Braden threw just 109 pitches in his first big-league complete game.

Longoria tried a bunt in the fifth — and, no, Braden didn't have any issues with it; "An intelligent play," he said — and Gabe Kapler, who made the final out, battled through a tenacious 12-pitch at-bat in the sixth before popping out.

"I was thinking maybe the knuckleball, the gyroball, the behind-the-back pitch, because I'd tried everything else," Braden said.

As much as it was a forgettable Mother's Day for the Rays, and they couldn't get rid of those pink bats (which will be auctioned off for charity) quickly enough, it was a memorable one for Braden.

His mother, Jodi Atwood, battled cancer and died while he was in high school in nearby Stockton, and he was raised by his grandmother, Peggy Lindsey, who was in the stands for Sunday's success.

"It hasn't been a joyous day for me in a while," Braden said. "To know that I can still come out and compete and play in a game on that day makes it a little better, and with my grandma in the stands — to give her this, together, is perfect."

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com.

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Oakland A's pitcher Dallas Braden throws perfect game against Tampa Bay Rays 05/09/10 [Last modified: Monday, May 10, 2010 10:16am]
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