1. Rays

Rays Tales: Plenty of coincidences in three perfect games against Tampa Bay Rays

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Published Aug. 20, 2012

The facts are fascinating enough: the Rays somehow, some way, defying history and tremendous odds. There have been only 23 perfect games in the more than 130-year and 200,000-game history of major-league baseball, and the Rays have been the victims three times, all in the past four seasons. • But even more mystifying: How? • Furthermore, why? • "I don't know," CF B.J. Upton said. "It just happens to us."

Common themes

The first two pitchers who blanked them, Chicago's Mark Buehrle in 2009 and Oakland's Dallas Braden in 2010, were similar, soft-tossing lefties. But Seattle's Felix Hernandez was overpowering from the right side Wednesday.

About a dozen Rays uniformed personnel have been a part of all three: six players, manager Joe Maddon and most of the coaches — though NOT hitting coach Derek Shelton, who joined them in 2010.

All three games were early afternoon starts on the road at the end of road series in good cities. (Draw whatever conclusions you may.)

"You want to think there's some kind of pattern that you could change, something to fix it," INF/OF Ben Zobrist said, but without any further ideas.

He did acknowledge that having been through it before — as well as a no-hitter by Edwin Jackson in June 2010, and a near-miss by Brandon Morrow (later in 2010) — that "maybe to a certain degree we get to a certain point and you think, 'not again,' " but that their competitiveness should overcome that. Maddon said more than anything it may be a product of how the Rays are constructed, with a "team offense" style rather than one or two dominant players.

"We're not the group that's going to tear it up all the time," he said. "So when we're matched up badly, it could happen. It could happen to anybody, but with us there are certain games going into them I know we don't match up well against that particular pitcher."

Four for the books

Four Rays were in the lineup for all three perfect games — Evan Longoria, Carlos Peña, B.J. Upton and Ben Zobrist. (Also in uniform for the Rays were pitchers James Shields and David Price.) Only one other player in MLB history, per Elias, has played against three perfect pitchers: Alfredo Griffin, for the Blue Jays vs. Cleveland's Len Barker (1981) and for the Dodgers vs. Cincinnati's Tom Browning (1988) and Montreal's Dennis Martinez (1991). And for coincidence's sake, all five players have been on the field together this weekend as Griffin is the Angels first-base coach. Longoria, Peña, Upton and Zobrist also were in the lineup for Edwin Jackson's no-hitter against the Rays (June 2010) and Matt Garza's for them (July 2010).

"Imperfect" men

Joe Maddon earned two footnotes Wednesday, the first manager to be ejected from a perfect game — on either side — and the first to be on the wrong end three times. The only other manager with more than one is the Dodgers' Tommy Lasorda. Maddon has actually seen perfection four times. He was the bullpen coach for the Angels when Kenny Rogers threw his July 1994 gem in Texas. Also four-peating are Rays coaches Tom Foley and Dave Martinez who, amazingly, were also in the same uniform as Montreal teammates for Dennis Martinez's 1991 gem.

More words than hits

• For Rays radio man Andy Freed, no-hitters are becoming no big deal. Freed, who came to Tampa Bay in 2005 with partner Dave Wills, has called all five no-hitters the Rays were involved in. Before that, he called four in the minors and/or spring training. (And openly talked about them on the radio.) He has been in the stands as a fan for two others, including one-time Ray Wilson Alvarez's 1991 no-no for the White Sox at Baltimore.

• On a personal note, Hernandez's perfect game was the sixth no-hitter I've covered in 15 seasons on the Rays beat. The incredible privilege and good fortune in that can sometimes gets lost but was driven home Wednesday sitting in the Safeco Field press box with Seattle Times writer, and good friend, Larry Stone, who was visibly thrilled to cover his first in writing about baseball for 27 years.

Rays rumblings

Joe Maddon, admittedly biased, said he considers David Price the front-runner for the AL Cy Young Award; ESPN's Keith Law doesn't have Price in his top five. … Potentially at some peril, the Rays had Fernando Rodney shoot a real bow and arrow for a cover shot on their Inside Pitch magazine. … Seeing the Padres sell for $800 million had to be the highlight of last week's owners meeting. … Another misuse of the schedule as a marketing tool: none of the Red Sox's three 2013 visits are on a weekend. … RHP James Shields guested last week on Jim Rome's TV show.

Got a minute? Wade Davis

Something you're scared of? Living in the city. Any city.

Karaoke song if you had to? Sweet Child O' Mine.

Favorite TV show? House. Kind of random.

Late-night snack? Mint chocolate-chip ice cream.

Celebrity crush? Marilyn Monroe.

Comparing perfection
Pitches (strikes)KsGround/fly ballsTime of gameDay of weekStart timeScoreRays starterLast outHP umpire
Buehrle116 (76)611/102:03Thursday*1:07 p.m.5-0KazmirBartlettEric Cooper
Braden109 (77)67/142:07Sunday*1:08 p.m.4-0ShieldsKaplerJim Wolf
Hernandez113 (77)128/72:22Wednesday*12:40 p.m.1-0HellicksonS. RodriguezRod Drake

* - Last day of series