This had already been an eventful year for Oakland A's left-hander Dallas Braden(notes). His season began with career-best 10-K effort against the Mariners, then took an odd turn when he engaged in a verbal catfight with Alex Rodriguez(notes) over a violation of baseball etiquette.
During the spat with A-Rod, the Yankees third baseman dismissed Braden as, "a guy that has a handful of wins in his career."
On Sunday, Braden added another W to his lifetime total, pitching the 19th perfect game in major league history. He beat the Tampa Bay Rays in Oakland, 4-0. Watch video of the final out here, via MLB.com.
This might very well be the most stunning perfecto ever thrown, considering the quality of the opposing lineup — the Rays began the day second in MLB in runs-scored — and the perceived quality of the pitcher himself. Entering Sunday's action, Braden's career record was 17-23 and his ERA was an unthreatening 4.62.
But the 26-year-old was masterful against the first-place Rays. Braden struck out six batters — including Evan Longoria(notes) once and BJ Upton(notes) twice — needing 109 pitches to go 27-up, 27-down. His defense never really had to make an exceptional play behind him. Incredibly, the Rays have now been the victims of perfect games in consecutive seasons. You'll recall that Mark Buehrle(notes) got 'em last July.
With all due respect to Buehrle, though, Sunday's perfection was somehow more perfect. The photo below is, without question, one of the all-time Mother's Day images in major league history…
That's Braden and his grandmother, Peggy Lindsey, after the game. His mom passed away from cancer when he was a senior in high school.
How he was able to hold it together during the final moments on Sunday, considering the circumstances — the day, the opponent — is just unknowable. That's apparently how they handle their business in the 209.
Congratulations to Braden and the 12,228 fans who were on hand to witness his gem (and to anyone who started him in a fantasy league, which was an insane decision that happened to work). He might only have a handful of career wins, but he just authored one that's unforgettable.
Photos via Getty Images