OAKLAND, Calif. (MCT) — Mark Buehrle pitched a perfect game that moved the White Sox into a tie for first place three years ago, but his 2009 season gradually slid like his team’s fortunes.
In the case of Philip Humber, the Sox will settle for consistency.
“If we are setting perfect games as the standard now, I think we might be waiting awhile,” pitching coach Don Cooper said on the eve of Humber’s first start since pitching the 21st perfect game in major league history.
Humber left the team Tuesday to return to Chicago to be with his expectant wife, Kristan. But Humber is expected to start Thursday night against the Red Sox at U.S. Cellular Field.
“Oh, yeah, we are chasing Johnny Vander Meer,” Cooper said with a puddle of sarcasm in reference to the only pitcher in major league history to throw no-hitters in consecutive starts.
In the two days after his perfect game against the Mariners in Seattle, Humber was diligent about doing maintenance work in addition to fulfilling a plethora of demands from those seeking insight on his perfect game.
But Humber no longer is known as the third overall pick in the 2004 draft who endured inconsistencies and injuries until cementing a spot in the Sox’s rotation last season.
The Sox hope Humber, 29, can sustain his success longer than he did in 2011, when he was 8-5 with a 3.10 ERA in the first half but 1-4 with a 5.01 ERA in the second half.
“He’s a quality pitcher, and we need to look at him to be consistent throughout,” Cooper said. “Last year, the knock on him was in the second half. You can’t go by wins and stuff, either, because we weren’t winning.
“I’m not sure what to say, other than he can pitch and it comes down to command. He can do a lot of things. He can change speeds. He has a curve, slider, changeup and fastball. I think it stems from being aggressive and commanding the fastball.”
After throwing his perfect game against the Rays on July 23, 2009, Buehrle went on to throw 52/3 perfect innings against the Twins in Minnesota to set a major league record with 45 consecutive batters retired.
But in the latter game, Buehrle allowed five runs, starting a downward trend for the remainder of the season. After the perfect game, Buehrle was 2-7 with a 4.78 ERA and 10 home runs allowed.
Humber’s situation is different in that he has started only twice because the Sox skipped his first turn after an April 10 rainout in Cleveland, and he should be better equipped to hold up through an entire season after throwing a season-high 163 innings last year.
The Sox are hoping to capitalize on Humber’s success by trimming their upper reserved ticket prices to $9 (innings pitched) and lower box, lower reserved and bleacher tickets to $27 (consecutive outs recorded) for Thursday night’s game to commemorate Humber’s achievement.
“I like more peaks than valleys, but it happens every year to every team,” manager Robin Ventura said. “There are ups and downs, and you have to roll when it’s down but enjoy the peaks when they’re there.
“It’s an extreme example of what happened. But we enjoyed it. It was great for him, great for the team, great for the organization, and we go from there.”