Mark Buehrle. Yeah, the dude was all right.
What can you say about his Opening Day performance against the Cleveland Indians other than “emblematic”?
Buehrle earned a reputation as one of the greatest pitchers in White Sox history by doing exactly the kind of thing he did in the 2005 season opener. He pitched well, he pitched fast, and he didn’t let the opposition do anything. Watching this game, it’s no surprise that he ended up throwing a no-hitter and a perfect game later in his career. And this game was almost one of them. Buehrle didn’t allow a base runner until the fifth inning and faced the minimum through six.
He allowed just two hits and no runs over his lightning-quick eight innings of work. This game was played in under two hours. Are you kidding me?
When the 2005 season began, the White Sox already knew they had an ace on their hands. In his first four full seasons in the big leagues, from 2001 to 2004, Buehrle did what Buehrle did for years. He won a combined 65 games, posted a 3.73 ERA and made an All-Star team. And he was durable. In 2004, he led the game with 35 starts and led the American League with 245.1 innings pitched.
So going eight on Opening Day? No shock.
It was also a sign of things to come. Buehrle made 33 starts in 2005 and again led the AL in innings, throwing 236.2 of them.
But what mattered most was the results, and boy did he look good in the season opener, getting one ground ball after another to keep a tight lid on the Indians. The only thing resembling a jam he found himself in came in the seventh, when he had two runners on with only one out after a walk to Travis Hafner. Four pitchers later, Buehrle induced an inning-ending double play.
He came back in the eighth and got three outs on 10 pitches.
With his perfect game and no-hitter so often replayed, it's actually surprising to watch an old Buehrle start and see him give up a hit of any kind. So even with just two base knocks in eight innings in this game, it was like, "What, he's not perfect every time out?" It's how good he was.
The White Sox won the World Series thanks to their starting pitching, and we’ll see plenty from the other arms in that rotation as #SoxRewind moves forward. But the man at the top certainly delivered an exceptional performance in his first outing of the season.
— While singing Buehrle’s praises, it’s only fair to throw some love Jake Westbrook’s way. After all, the White Sox bats didn’t do much more against Westbrook than the Indians’ offense did against the South Side ace. There were just six combined hits in this one, and the only run scored on an error in the seventh inning.
— “Small ball, Paul ball, over the wall ball.” When we did our “Distant Replay” podcast on Game 2 of the 2005 ALCS, there was a White Sox fan in the crowd holding that sign. Well, two thirds of it is a pretty decent description of how the White Sox got their only run in the season opener. Nobody went over the wall, but Paul Konerko’s seventh-inning double set up some small ball to scratch across the game’s lone tally. Jermaine Dye hit a deep fly ball that allowed Konerko to tag up and advance to third, and then he came home when Aaron Rowand hit into a Jhonny Peralta error. Not exactly stereotypical American League baseball, and it’s an increasing rarity in today’s game. But, as Adam Hoge pointed out, the 2005 White Sox made a habit of that sort of thing. Only fitting that that’s how they started the season.
— White Sox Talk (@NBCSWhiteSox) March 26, 2020
— It’s Shingo time! For now. The White Sox went through a few closers before settling on Bobby Jenks for their march to a championship. On Opening Day, though, Shingo Takatsu was the guy. He took over closing duties midway through his rookie season in 2004 and finished the year with a 2.31 ERA. In 2005, Takatsu was off the team by August. But in April? He was the guy closing out games. And he picked up Save No. 1 in Game No. 1.
— As Chris Kamka noted during the broadcast, Ozzie Guillen’s lineup included four position players making their White Sox debuts: Scott Podsednik, Tadahito Iguchi, Dye and A.J. Pierzynski. That’s a lot of change from one season to the next.
— The Indians' starting first baseman on Opening Day 2005? Ben Broussard, who today is the White Sox minor league hitting instructor.
— Hawk Harrelson said during the first inning, “Mark Buehrle, really, has not had a lot of success against the Indians.” An interesting setup for what was to be eight innings of two-hit ball. But Buehrle’s numbers against Cleveland never looked too great overall. He finished his career with a losing record (16-18) and an ERA just south of 5.00 in 50 games (49 of them starts) against the Indians. This, though, was one of the good ones.
#SoxRewind rolls on Friday, when you can catch the April 9, 2005, game against the Twins, starting at 4 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago. It's Jon Garland's first start of the 2005 season, plus Timo Perez does something fun! And can you imagine a better backdrop than the glorious Metrodome?