Garcia comes within reach of perfect game

Garcia comes within reach of perfect game

By The Associated Press

ANAHEIM, Calif. – Given a big lead, Freddy Garcia could afford to simply throw strikes.

Unhittable strikes, mostly.

Garcia pitched perfect ball until Adam Kennedy singled with two outs in the eighth inning, and the Chicago White Sox beat the Los Angeles Angels 9-0 Wednesday.

“I knew I had a no-hitter going, but I was trying not to think about it and keep making my pitches,” Garcia said.

“I’ve been facing those guys for a long time, so I know they’re aggressive and they like to swing the bat. Kennedy hit a good pitch, so there was nothing I could do about it. But who doesn’t want to throw a no-hitter?”

Garcia retired the first 23 batters before Kennedy cleanly lined the 100th pitch to center field on a 3-2 count. The only other time Garcia went to a three-ball count before that was in the seventh, when Vladimir Guerrero hit an inning-ending grounder on a 3-1 pitch.

“I was expecting anything at that point,” Kennedy said. “I didn’t think he would groove a fastball. He didn’t this time, and I just tried not to do too much with it. Once the game got a little out of hand and they got a good grip on it, it wasn’t that big of a deal. You just start to think about trying to get some momentum for tomorrow.”

Garcia came close to the first perfect game in the major leagues since Randy Johnson did it for Arizona at Atlanta on May 18, 2004. There have been only 14 regular-season perfect games in the majors since 1900.

“I thought he was going to get it. I thought it was going to happen,” Chicago first baseman Paul Konerko said. “When he got through the seventh, I really felt he was going to do it. I think everybody was a little heartbroken. I’ve never been a part of one, so you were just hoping to see it. And he had a perfect game going, so that’s a little different than a no-hitter. So everybody’s dialed in.”

Ahead 7-0 by the fourth and in control the whole way, Garcia struck out three and walked none in eight innings. Neal Cotts pitched a perfect ninth to complete the one-hitter.

“He stayed out of the hitting zone,” said the Angels’ Chone Figgins, who broke up a no-hit bid by Giants rookie Matt Cain on June 19 with a two-out single in the eighth inning. “When you’re keeping the ball down like that, it’s tough to hit.”

Pitching just seven days after Florida Marlins rookie Anibal Sanchez ended a major league record drought of 21/2 years between no-hitters, Garcia was staked to an 8-0 lead before he gave up his first hit.

“One thing about Freddy, he’s as relaxed as they come,” Konerko said. “I mean, knowing Freddy, with the score the way it was, he was probably like, ‘Ah, the heck with it. Let me just throw some balls over the middle of the plate.’

“He has kind of the attitude that, ‘Hey, I’m out here to get the win and I don’t care about my personal numbers,’ which is a great attitude to have for a pitcher. But we wanted him to go for it, and he did go for it,” he said.

The White Sox moved within 11/2 games of Minnesota in the AL wild-card race. The Angels began the day on the fringe of the AL West and wild-card chases.

Garcia improved to 14-3 with a 2.25 ERA in 24 regular-season career starts against the Angels. He also had a complete-game victory against them in Game 4 of last year’s AL Championship Series. The Angels have scored one run in 24 innings this year against the two-time All-Star.

“He’s had a history of doing well against us,” Kennedy said. “He mixes his pitches up and he’s been fortunate enough to pitch a lot of times with a decent lead.”