05/10/10 12:06 AM ET
Defense doesn't go unnoticed by Braden
Patterson, Kouzmanoff provide sparkling plays to get outs
By Alex Espinoza / MLB.com
With two outs in the ninth and Tampa Bay's Gabe Kapler at the plate, Dallas Braden had to do what he did with the first 26 batters he faced: get him out.
The count at 3-1, Braden delivered a fastball to the outside half of the plate. Kapler made contact, sending the ball right to A's shortstop Cliff Pennington.
"I was like, 'Oh God, here we go,'" Pennington said.
Admittedly a bit nervous, Pennington threw a strike across the infield to first baseman Daric Barton, beating Kapler by two steps.
Perfection achieved, as the A's claimed a 4-0 win Sunday over the Rays, who were victims of a second perfect game in as many seasons.
By this point, Braden's exultant left fist was in the air, and his teammates were sprinting toward him. Barton got there first and lifted Braden off the ground with a hearty hug, before catcher Landon Powell and the rest of Braden's teammates joined in on the celebration.
As gloves, hats and helmets littered the infield, Braden made his way to the dugout for the afternoon's most poignant embrace with his grandmother Peggy Lindsey.
Although he called the A's defense "ridiculous," Braden's teammates didn't have an extraordinary day in the field Sunday. They didn't have to.
Braden struck out six Rays and got the rest to either ground out or fly out in typical fashion. Still, Braden had plenty of praise for the eight guys on the field with him.
"I think people might overlook two plays that were crucial to me," Braden said. "That's the two absolute missiles that were hit at Eric Patterson. That's the toughest ball to play as an outfielder is that ball that's leaned on right at you. You don't have much time to make an adjustment, and he played both of those balls perfectly."
Despite the mounting pressure, Patterson said he felt comfortable in left field as Braden worked on perfection in the late innings. In the seventh, a hard line drive off Jason Bartlett's bat came right at Patterson, who admitted it was the only time all game he felt worried.
"It was one of those balls that was right at me," Patterson said. "You're kind of not really sure what to do, but I held my ground. I was pretty comfortable out there."
Perhaps Oakland's only highlight-worthy defensive play happened in the eighth inning when Carlos Pena came up with one out. He skied the first pitch of his at-bat into foul territory before A's third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff ran under it to make the catch. His momentum carried him right into the A's dugout.
"Kouzmanoff, again, stole my thunder," Braden said.
Alex Espinoza is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.