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There's a catch: Defense key in no-nos

There's a catch: Defense key in no-nos

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Every piece of baseball perfection has a catch to it. Or, perhaps, two or three really good ones.

It doesn't take even a second glance at Dewayne Wise's leaping, bobbling grab of Gabe Kapler's drive to left-center field Thursday afternoon to realize that.

Defense might win championships and make a pretty good offense, but it also makes a perfect game possible. Mark Buehrle couldn't have delivered the 18th piece of perfection in Major League history without some from his White Sox teammates.

To record 27 outs without a walk, that's on the pitcher. To get through without a hit or an error, he's going to need help.

Exhibit A: Jonathan Sanchez's no-hitter just two weeks earlier. An error by third baseman Juan Uribe ( Watch) was all that kept him from perfection, but that's only because a leaping grab by center fielder Aaron Rowand saved the no-hitter in the ninth ( Watch).

Actually, the best example in history happens to be the best no-hitter in history: Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series.

The gem of all time had three sparkling defensive plays, starting with a fluke ricochet off third baseman Andy Carey's glove to shortstop Gil McDougald, who threw out Jackie Robinson for the first out of the second inning. Then, Mickey Mantle made a backhanded play of a Gil Hodges shot to left-center field, and Carey got Hodges again with a liner in the eighth. ( Watch)

And until Wise's might have entered the same elite status, the all-time defensive save of a no-hitter might belong to Hall of Famer Robin Yount, who made his mark as a shortstop but helped Juan Nieves make history in the outfield. Yount made a full-stretch dive into right-center field to rob Eddie Murray, another future Hall of Famer, of a hit for the final out of the game.

More recently, defense has been a hallmark of no-hitters. For example, each of the no-hitters (including Sanchez's) between Buehrle's perfecto and the previous one by Randy Johnson in 2004 has benefitted from fine leather:

Carlos Zambrano, 2008: While not as spectacular as Wise's, Mark DeRosa's running catch of a liner by the Astros' Geoff Blum in the eighth preserved a Chicago no-hitter of a different color. Watch

Jon Lester, 2008: Center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury made a diving catch of Jose Guillen's line drive to end the fourth inning of Lester's no-hitter against the Royals. Watch

Clay Buchholz, 2007: The Red Sox turned in a few good plays, including one by Bucholz himself, but none as spectacular as the one Dustin Pedroia made, diving and sprawling up the middle and springing to his feet to nail the Orioles' Miguel Tejada . Watch

Justin Verlander, 2007: A beautiful double play saved the day when Neifi Perez took an eighth-inning ball up the middle, snared it, flipped the ball backward to Placido Polanco, who completed the twin killing with a strong throw to first to nail the Brewers' Gabe Gross. Watch

Buehrle, 2007: Like with many gems, the big play in Buehrle's first no-hitter came early: Joe Crede made a diving play at third base and a strong throw from foul territory to get Jerry Hairston by a whisker in the third inning. Watch

Anibal Sanchez, 2006: After Josh Willingham and Hanley Ramirez had made stellar plays earlier, Marlins second baseman Dan Uggla fielded a potential double-play grounder with the no-hitter on the line in the eighth. But crafty Craig Counsell complicated things by avoiding Uggla's tag. So Uggla started a 4-3-6 double play.

John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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