John Jaso, the Seattle Mariners’ backup catcher, was asked what his dugout was like in the ninth inning of Saturday’s no-hitter by Chicago’s Philip Humber.
“What was their dugout like?” Jaso asked rhetorically. “That’s what I’d want to know.”
Well, the Sox’s dugout was rife with anticipation. And the M’s, well, they were anxious, as their ninth-inning at-bats reflected. It was that way with leadoff hitter Michael Saunders and with the last hitter, Brendan Ryan.
But on this day, Humber wasn’t just any pitcher out there, either.
“We were talking about it from the fifth, sixth inning on,” Saunders said. “ ‘Hey, you guys, this guy’s throwing a no-hitter, a perfect game. Come on, let’s go.’
“We clearly don’t want to be no-hit, we don’t want to have a perfect game thrown at us. But these things happen. Hats off to him.”
Humber, who hadn’t had a three-ball count all day, went to 3-0 on Saunders, who then took a strike and figured fastball. He got one.
“I feel I got a little amped up on that pitch,” Saunders confessed. “It was ball four. I knew a heater was coming. I saw it down the middle of the plate and took a good swing, but obviously it was up.
“I swung at ball four, unfortunately. But I’m not looking to walk in that situation.”
After Jaso flied out, only Ryan was left. On a 3-2 pitch, Ryan’s checked swing was ruled a strike by plate umpire Brian Runge.
“In a situation like that, guys are anxious,” Humber said. “I’ve been in the dugout when guys are getting no-hit, and batters tend to get a little more anxious when they get a little deeper in the game.”
White Sox manager Robin Ventura was thinking like a manager as the game wore on. Rather than focus on fostering a perfect game, he was worried about winning, but two things made it easy to let it play out:
Alejandro De Aza’s run-scoring single in the ninth gave Humber a fourth run to work with, but more than that was Humber’s comfortable pitch count: 96.
“You look out, and he’s thrown 68 pitches (actually 69 through seven innings),” Ventura said. “He was kind of cruising.”