Up until Sunday, it was hard to find any silver lining with the amount of injuries the A's have dealt with this season. But Dallas Braden's perfect game took care of that as the Oakland lefty retired all 27 Tampa Bay batters in succession to record just the 19th perfect game in Major League history, a 4-0 A's victory.
Back on April 20, A's second baseman Mark Ellis left the game with a strained left hamstring. He was placed on the 15-day disabled list the next day and the A's called up catcher Landon Powell from their Triple-A affiliate in Sacramento, Calif.
The move seemed innocent enough. Oakland was carrying just one true catcher, Kurt Suzuki, and a backup, Jake Fox, who was more of a utility man who happened to play backstop.
So when Suzuki sustained a disabling muscle strain in his rib cage on April 24, Powell became a much more important piece of the puzzle. In just his 54th career big league game, Powell experienced something only 17 other catchers have, among them Ron Hassey, who caught perfection from Cleveland's Len Barker in 1981 and Montreal's Dennis Martinez 10 years later.
"Landon and I -- that's seamless," Braden said. "We've come up together. The guy's rock solid back there. I might have shaken [him off] once today. The guy knows my game inside and out."
Both selected by the A's in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft, Braden and Powell have been teammates at the Class A, Double-A and Triple-A levels in the Oakland organization. So it only makes perfect sense that the two batterymates could share this feat together.
"He makes it really, really easy out there," Braden said. "I joked you could fall asleep out there being that comfortable with that guy."
In the bullpen before Sunday's game, it was business as usual. Braden warmed up with Powell and asked him how his stuff looked. Powell, per usual, just put his head down and his thumb up.
"The feedback was pretty much the same today as it is every day," Braden said. "I didn't feel like I was throwing any harder because I definitely wasn't. I don't feel like my changeup was any better, because it definitely wasn't. It was just -- they hit them where they were today."
According to Powell, Braden's ability to own the inside part of the plate with supreme command of his fastball was the key to his success. Powell said that allowed Braden's changeup to keep Tampa Bay's hitters off-balance.
About the sixth inning, Powell started to get nervous.
"Not necessarily nervous for me," Powell said, "I was nervous for him. I knew that we were going to call the same game we were calling the whole time, and it just [was a matter of] whether it would work out or not."
It looks like it worked out.
Powell, who had struggled mightily with the bat since being called up, also had a hand in the A's offense on Sunday. He went 2-for-4 and drove in Kevin Kouzmanoff with an RBI single in the top of the second.
Understandably, though, Powell's focus wasn't on his performance in the batter's box on Sunday.
"It's funny," Powell said. "Usually, growing up, you're always excited to go hit -- you can't wait for your time in the order to come up again. Today, I was ready to get back on defense. I wanted to go out there and catch and see how many outs we could get."
Alex Espinoza is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less