For only a few seconds Saturday, Philip Humber's perfect game bid was out of his hands.
"Go get it," Humber said as catcher A.J. Pierzynski chased down an errant slider that pinch-hitter Brendan Ryan was ruled to have swung at. "Throw him out."
As soon as Pierzynski retreated and completed his throw to first base to complete the 27th consecutive out, the latest chapter in Humber's amazing ascent was completed.
Just 15 months after Humber had to earn his way onto the Sox's 2011 opening-day roster, Humber threw the 21st perfect game in major league history with an efficient 4-0 victory over the Mariners.
Despite protests by Ryan over home plate umpire Brian Runge's call, the Sox's players poured onto the field to mob Humber, 29, who pitched better than his 2004 first-round distinction with the Mets.
"I don't know what Philip Humber is doing in this list," Humber said of the list of pitchers who have thrown perfect games, including former teammate Mark Buehrle. "I have no idea what my name is doing there. But I'm thankful it's there."
So are the Sox, who claimed Humber on waivers from Oakland in January 2011 and saw him pitch so well that they went to a six-man rotation last summer because of his success.
As recently as April 10, the Sox skipped Humber's scheduled start after a rainout in Cleveland so they could keep their remaining four starters on schedule.
In his second start of the season, Humber pitched like a bona fide ace. Relying on a sharp slider, Humber tied his career high with nine strikeouts and needed exceptional defensive help only three times, capped by Pierzynski's throw to first.
Humber didn't throw three balls to any batter until he ran up a 3-0 count to Michael Saunders to start the ninth, then came back to strike him out on a 3-2 slider.
After a high fly hit by pinch-hitter John Jaso to right fielder Alex Rios for the second out, Ryan then ran the count full. Pierzynski said there was no way he was going to call a fastball because he wanted to keep the no-hitter intact if Humber had missed outside with the slider for a walk.
"It takes a lot of confidence in your stuff to do that, and he had that confidence," Rios said. "It was a good effort with him and A.J."
The last pitcher to throw a perfect game was the Phillies' Roy Halladay against the Marlins on May 29, 2010. Buehrle threw the last perfect game by a Sox pitcher against the Rays on July 23, 2009.
Humber said he received 67 text messages about 45 minutes after the game. But that celebration could take a back seat soon.
"My wife (Kristan) is nine months' pregnant, and I was making sure she didn't give birth when I was pitching," said Humber, who also called his father shortly after the game. "Lot of friends, people need to share this moment with because a lot of them helped me along the way."
Reliever Will Ohman said he said a prayer in the bullpen.
"I felt (Jake) Peavy on my back," Humber said of the celebration on the field after the final out. "I couldn't breathe and I was (saying), 'let me up.' I skinned my forehead.
"The best part was seeing my teammates excited."