SEATTLE -- The Mariners were a part of baseball history on Saturday afternoon, and it wasn't the kind they wanted.
White Sox starter Philip Humber threw the 21st perfect game in Major League history, and the Mariners were the team on the other end, losing, 4-0.
Twenty-seven Mariners went to the plate and 27 made outs. It was the first perfect game against the Mariners, the first perfecto and no-hitter in Safeco Field history and the first no-hitter against Seattle since Dwight Gooden of the Yankees turned the trick in New York on May 14, 1996. The only other no-hitter against the Mariners was a combined no-no by the Angels' Mark Langston (seven innings) and Mike Witt (two innings) in Anaheim on April 11, 1990.
Mariners manager Eric Wedge, who said he had never been a part of a perfect game or even a no-hitter in all his years in the sport, acknowledged the fact that Humber's feat was a rare accomplishment in the annals of baseball. He also acknowledged his team's part in allowing it to happen.
"Humber pitched a great ballgame, [White Sox catcher A.J.] Pierzynski did a great job working with him out there and we really never got anything going," Wedge said. "He worked ahead all day long. When he did get behind and had to come in, we missed fastballs. It's a bad combination. But he pitched a heck of a ballgame."
The final out of the game came on a strikeout to pinch-hitter Brendan Ryan, who swung and missed, but Pierzynski threw to first to complete the out when Ryan argued the call with home-plate umpire Brian Runge and didn't run to first.
"I don't even want to talk about [the call]," Ryan said. "I will say that was a pretty outstanding game he threw. He had his slider working, obviously, and pounded the zone, kept his pitch count down. Pretty outstanding stuff from him today."
Even if Ryan had reached first base, the no-hitter would still have been alive, and Humber didn't make many mistakes all day.
It took the right-hander only 96 pitches to accomplish the feat, he went to a three-ball count only twice -- both in the ninth inning -- and the closest the Mariners came to getting a hit was in the fourth inning, when Seattle second baseman Dustin Ackley hit a hard line drive to deep right field, but White Sox outfielder Alex Rios caught up to it and reached up, jumping slightly to make the catch. After that, Humber cruised to the finish line, kicking off a road celebration.
"When I hit it, I saw the trajectory on it, I felt it was a ball in the gap," Ackley said. "I was telling some guys that the guy out there [Rios] is 6-foot-6 or however tall, and he was playing fairly deep and he made a great play on it.
"At that point, that early, nobody's really thinking about anything other than trying to get hits. You're only down two or three runs at that point, just trying to get runners on, and you don't really think of it that early that this might be the only chance you've got. "
But it was.
The Mariners were flummoxed by Humber from the beginning. After two groundouts and a lineout in the first inning, Humber struck out Justin Smoak, Kyle Seager and Jesus Montero in succession in the second. After that, the quick outs kept coming.
Four of the next nine outs came via pop flies, and Humber needed only 20 total pitches to get through the fourth, fifth and sixth frames, with six pitches in each of the sixth and seventh. In the eighth, Humber started out as strong as he had been all day, striking out Smoak. Seager got a rise out of the crowd for a brief moment with a flare to left field, but it was hit right at Brent Lillibridge, who put it away for a routine second out, and Montero grounded out weakly to second base to set up the ninth-inning dramatics.
"He had command of all his pitches," Ackley said. "There wasn't one pitch you could eliminate. He was throwing his changeup, he was throwing his little slider, curveball, locating his fastball, getting ahead. I think that was by far the key for him. If he didn't have control of a couple of his pitches, it may be a different story, but he was throwing all of them for strikes and getting ahead, and he threw a good game."
Mariners starter Blake Beavan turned in a quality start, pitching six innings and giving up three runs on seven hits. He was touched up by a solo home run by Paul Konerko to lead off the second inning, and Konerko and Pierzynski hit back-to-back RBI singles in the third, but Beavan righted himself after that, retiring eight consecutive batters to finish his day. The White Sox scored their fourth run in the top of the ninth against Mariners reliever Steve Delabar.
"Obviously, we wanted to try to get ahead and win the game, but at the same time, you've got a guy like Humber battling out there and making pitches and everything going the right way, some things you just can't do," Beavan said. "That's the first time I've [been on the same field during a perfect game] in pro ball. I've never seen anything like that."
Beavan wasn't the only one. The Mariners came into the game with a .235 team batting average and exited with that number down to .223. Wedge said it's imperative that the team use the historic loss to its advantage, starting Sunday afternoon against the same White Sox.
"When you talk about some of our younger players and even some of the players that have been around a little bit, when you go through something like this, it's history, but it's also something you have to learn from -- where you are, heartbeat-wise, in the latter innings of that game ... from certain points in time when you go through certain at-bats, what happened and why," Wedge said.
"You've got to learn from anything like this, you've got to take something from it and make sure you get better for it."
And how does that start?
"Just be ready tomorrow," Mariners veteran Chone Figgins said. "There's still a long way to go. It's one of them freak days in baseball. You come to the ballpark, you never know what's going to happen. I've never been a part of it.
"I guess this is the day I was."