Powell a perfect complement
Dallas Braden struck out B.J. Upton to end the top of the eighth inning Sunday, and catcher Landon Powell jogged back to the dugout, ball in hand. On most days, he would have idly flipped it into the stands. But not on this day. Not with a perfect game in progress. Powell took the ball and stuffed it into a hat in his equipment bag -- just in case.
And an hour later, that ball, Powell's glove and other mementos from the game were authenticated for history, as the pitcher and catcher happily stood by, after the 19th perfect game in history.
"I've been playing with him since '04," Powell said, as he drove away from the park. "The second game I caught in pro ball, he was pitching. I've probably called 70 or 80 games with him -- more than any other pitcher. And it's really cool for him to be the guy to have this happen to."
Powell and Braden are different in background and personality -- Powell grew up in North Carolina, Braden in California -- and to Powell, Braden was "definitely different. He's not scared to tell you how he feels. ... He can be kind of an in-your-face, abrasive guy.
"But after I got to know him, I saw that he was a guy who will have your back no matter what. He keeps things loose, and he's a good guy, and he's got a good heart."
And, Powell discovered, he is not afraid. Powell was headed out to stretch before Sunday's game and he mentioned to Braden that Ben Sheets had had a lot of success against the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday by pitching inside with his fastball -- in and off the plate, about six inches. This seemed to open up the outer half of the plate for Sheets, and Powell theorized it might work this way for Braden, as well, because the left-hander's best pitch is a changeup.
Once the game started, Braden also was throwing his slider for first-pitch strikes, which prevented the Rays, one of the best-hitting teams in the majors and a team that will look to do damage on the first pitch, from just attacking his stuff.
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