A between-the-legs flip? Uh, OK. That’ll work.
“You see the play happening, you run over there saying, ‘Do I slide and spin, or do I grab the ball and throw it?”’ Buehrle said. “I think every thought went through my head. It just happened the way it did.”
Buehrle’s spectacular play in the fifth highlighted an opening day when he pitched three-hit ball over seven innings and Paul Konerko(notes) homered to lead the Chicago White Sox to a 6-0 win over the Cleveland Indians on Monday.
Konerko got his 12th season in Chicago off to a good start with a two-run drive in the first and Buehrle simply shut down the Indians, spoiling Cleveland manager Manny Acta’s debut and Jake Westbrook’s(notes) first start in nearly two years.
Buehrle, starting his club-record eighth opener, looked more like the four-time All-Star he is than the guy who won just twice last year after his perfect game against Tampa Bay on July 23.
He retired the last 10 batters he faced, struck out three and walked one, but most impressive was that play in the fifth, when he stuck his leg out and knocked Lou Marson’s(notes) hard one-hopper into foul territory along the first-base side. Buehrle raced over and—in one motion—used his glove to shovel the ball between his legs to Konerko for a barehanded catch that retired the runner.
Catcher A.J. Pierzynski(notes) called it “probably one of the top two or three plays I’ve seen.” He compared it to DeWayne Wise’s(notes) juggling, home-run robbing catch against the wall in the ninth inning to preserve Buehrle’s perfect game.
As the play unfolded, Konerko said, “I was just trying to be loud and let him know where I was because I knew he would be kind of blind. With nobody on base, you can kind of go for broke. It’s not like you have to worry about the ball getting away from you. He put it right on the money.”
As for the barehanded catch?
“It’s not something you practice,” Konerko said. “You probably won’t see it again for years, maybe.”
When the crowd roared, Buehrle knew: Somehow, he got the out. A Gold Glove winner last year, he quickly added this play to the highlight reel.
“I take pride in fielding my position as good as I can,” said Buehrle, whose foot was bruised.
Marson couldn’t believe Buehrle got him.
“I don’t think he even looked at the bag,” he said.
After a pause, he asked: “And he went in between his legs? Was it in between his legs?”
For Cleveland, the start of the new season looked awfully like the last one — a 65-win disaster that led to Eric Wedge’s firing.
Westbrook—back from reconstructive elbow surgery—tied a club record with four wild pitches, hit Carlos Quentin(notes) twice, walked four and allowed five runs and five hits in his first start since May 28, 2008.
“Chalk it up to I just didn’t pitch well,” he said. “I’m done with the excuses of you haven’t pitched in a year and a half. Now it’s just a matter of getting better.”
He left trailing 4-0 after walking Konerko to load the bases with none out in the fifth, but the trouble began almost as soon as he took the mound.
Quentin doubled to the right-field corner with two out in the first and Konerko made it 2-0 when he sent the next pitch to the right-field bullpen, just beyond a leaping Shin-Soo Choo(notes). He pumped his fist as he rounded first and took a curtain call as fans chanted “Paulie! Paulie!”
NOTES: Sam McDowell (twice) and Steve Hargan previously threw four wild pitches in a game for Cleveland. … Indians 2B Luis Valbuena(notes) sat out with a right hand bruise after being hit by a pitch in Saturday’s exhibition finale. “He’s just a little sore and we want to be on the conservative side,” manager Manny Acta said. “Our medical staff is happy with the progress he’s made.” Asked if the left-handed-hitting Valbuena would platoon with right-handed Mark Grudzielanek(notes), Acta said: “No. Valbuena’s our second baseman.” … Billy Pierce is now second on the White Sox list with seven opening day starts. … Quentin was hit by a pitch 35 times over the previous two years.