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Marlins pitcher flirts with perfection on anniversary of Mark Buehrle’s perfect game

As tributes to Buehrle’s perfect game against the Rays in the same ballpark go, Marlins left-hander Caleb Smith came up with a good one.


As tributes to former White Sox left-hander Mark Buehrle’s perfect game against the Rays in the same ballpark go, Marlins left-hander Caleb Smith came up with a good one.

In fact, it was a perfectly paid homage for 5⅔ innings of the Marlins’ 5-1 victory Tuesday against the Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Ten years after Buehrle made history with the 18th perfect game in major-league history, Smith retired the first 17 Sox he faced.

Sox manager Rick Renteria turned to pitching coach Don Cooper, who earlier reminisced about Buehrle’s gem, and felt a bit spooked.

‘‘I’ll be honest, it was a little eerie for us,’’ Renteria said. ‘‘I kept thinking, ‘I wasn’t here 10 years ago for that.’ And he was working that, and I was like, ‘Hey, Coop, I don’t like what I’m seeing here.’ ’’

The Sox didn’t have a baserunner against Smith until he walked No. 9 batter Adam Engel on a 3-1 pitch with two outs in the sixth. Smith then walked Leury Garcia and allowed an RBI single to Jon Jay, breaking up his no-hit bid and cutting the Marlins lead to 5-1.

‘‘Anybody says they don’t feel it, he can say he doesn’t feel it, but everybody knows the perfect game is going on,’’ said Sox shortstop Ryan Goins, who was 0-for-3.

Goins said he was more aware of what was happening in the moment than of what happened 10 years ago.

‘‘I don’t think we are thinking that far back,’’ he said. ‘‘We are just trying to go up there and have good at-bats, honestly.’’

Smith (6-4), who mixed his pitches and stayed away from the middle of the plate, allowed two hits and two walks and struck out nine in seven innings.

‘‘I definitely was thinking about the no-hitter and perfect game the entire time,’’ Smith said. ‘‘You try and put it out of your mind, but it’s kind of hard to.’’

Smith was on a roll before the walk to Engel, striking out the previous five batters. All of that made for an eerie feeling around the ballpark where Buehrle had thrown his perfecto on July 23, 2009. This game was played in a Buehrle-style 2 hours, 27 minutes; the perfect game was 2 hours, 3 minutes.

Cooper was there.

‘‘I was actually calm the whole game,’’ Cooper said.

But not when Dewayne Wise leaped above the center-field wall to take a home run away from Gabe Kapler in the ninth.

‘‘We all knew what was going on,’’ Cooper said. ‘‘I got emotional when I saw [Buehrle] get emotional.’’

The Sox’ starter on this night, right-hander Dylan Covey (1-6, 6.04 ERA), allowed five runs and six hits in six innings. He yielded three extra-base hits, including a homer to Curtis Granderson, in a four-run fourth.

Covey said he felt good and was OK with his outing but for ‘‘a couple of pitches.’’

It was a far cry from Smith’s performance.

‘‘I didn’t know he had a perfect game,’’ Covey said. ‘‘I knew he had no hits because the board shows it. I can’t focus on that or let that affect me. I’ve just got to do my job, match him as best I can. It just didn’t work out for me today.’’