Mark Buehrle made that possibility a certainty on Tuesday night, knocking down the first 17 batters he faced against the Twins and setting the new mark at 45 straight, a run that ended with a two-out walk issued to Alexi Casilla in the sixth.
White Sox closer Bobby Jenks had a share of the previous record, retiring 41 straight from July 17-Aug. 12, 2007, and matching Jim Barr's 41 in a row for San Francisco from Aug. 23-29, 1972. Jenks encouraged Buehrle to go out and set the new mark before the southpaw made his first start since Thursday's perfect game hurled against Tampa Bay.
Prior to Buehrle setting the standard, by striking out Michael Cuddyer and retiring his old friend Joe Crede on a ground ball to shortstop Alexei Ramirez, he had a little fun with Jenks about approaching this latest piece of history.
"At the start of the inning, I looked down to the bullpen at Bobby, and he's just laughing at me," Buehrle said. "When I got the one or two guys out, he threw his hat on the ground, acting [upset]. Then, the whole bullpen started clapping for me."
"I was up here watching, and of course, sitting here thinking, 'He's not going to do it,'" said Jenks with a smile. "Then, I thought, 'It's Mark. Of course he's going to do it.'"
This amazing streak of perfection began on July 18 against the Orioles, when Buehrle retired Nick Markakis on a fly ball as the last batter he faced in the eighth inning on that afternoon. Cesar Izturis and Brian Roberts both singled to begin the inning, but nobody knew those would be the last baserunners off of the White Sox ace until Casilla's walk and Denard Span's single in the ensuing at-bat.
In Tuesday's 5-3 loss, Buehrle struck out three in the first 17 Minnesota hitters he faced and recorded 11 outs via the ground ball. In the process, Buehrle earned even greater respect from a team who he holds a 23-15 career edge against.
|By retiring Joe Crede on a groundout in the fifth inning, White Sox southpaw Mark Buehrle set the Major League mark for most consecutive players retired at 42, breaking the mark held by teammate Bobby Jenks and Jim Barr.|
|Mark Buehrle||White Sox||45||July 18-28, 2009|
|Bobby Jenks||White Sox||41||July 17-Aug. 20, 2007|
|Jim Barr||Giants||41||Aug. 23-29, 1972|
|Tom Browning||Reds||40||Sept. 16-21, 1988|
|Randy Johnson||D-backs||39||May 13-23, 2004|
|David Wells||Yankees||38||May 12-23, 1998|
|Harvey Haddix||Pirates||38||May 21-26, 1959|
"He works at a great pace, and Mark's a great pitcher," Crede said. "He always has been historically. He was able to have a remarkable run there that he's always going to remember."
"To see him not give up a hit, his whole thing is pitching to contact," Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. "You're going to get bloops. Really, you think about it, it's really amazing nobody blooped one for 45 hitters."
"That's unbelievable," Span said. "He was just in the zone. He was making every pitch and making us look foolish, I'm going to be honest."
Minnesota's "foolishness" ended in the sixth when the Twins scored one run, and then added four in the seventh to knock Buehrle from the game and win for the second straight start against the All-Star. That result gave a bit of a hollow ring to Buehrle's accomplishment, a remarkable stretch that few before him have accomplished.
No other owner of a perfect game had ever taken a second straight start of perfection as far as five innings as Buehrle did. Still, Buehrle would have liked to have added a "W" to complete the night.
"It was cool, obviously to retire that many in a row and set the record," White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. "But it was bittersweet that it was Bobby's record and we lost the game. Mark pitched better than his line showed. It wasn't meant to be tonight but it was amazing what he did."
"Just another one of those things I never thought I would accomplish in my career," Buehrle said. "But it's tough the way the game ended."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.