(Reuters) - Chicago White Sox pitcher Philip Humber, a late-blooming top prospect who battled past elbow injuries, threw Major League Baseball's first perfect game in nearly two years on Saturday in a 4-0 win over the Mariners in Seattle.
The 29-year-old Humber struck out nine as he mowed down the Mariners lineup, retiring each of the 27 batters he faced.
"I can't even put it into words," Humber said during a televised on-field interview moments after team mates piled on top of him in celebration near the mound.
"I'm just so happy, there are so many good things that are happening right now and this just adds to the list," said the pitcher, whose wife is expecting a baby boy.
The right-hander, who had won only 11 games over parts of seven seasons in the majors, threw just 96 pitches and needed no fielding heroics to register the perfect game.
In the ninth inning, the former third pick overall from the 2004 draft went to a count of 3-0 to leadoff hitter Michael Saunders, one ball away from issuing a walk that would have cost him his bid for perfection.
But Humber came back to strike him out on a late breaking slider for the first out.
John Jaso pinch hit for catcher Miguel Olivo and flew out to right field for out number two.
Then Brendan Ryan was sent in to bat for shortstop Munenori Kawasaki.
The last out came by an unusual strikeout, as Ryan, with two strikes on him, failed to check his swing on a pitch low and outside and the umpire signaled strike three.
But the ball bounced in the dirt and got past catcher A.J. Pierzynski. Ryan turned to argue with the umpire rather than make a dash for first base, and Pierzynski pounced on the ball and threw to first baseman Paul Konerko for the final put-out.
That unleashed a wild scene as White Sox players mobbed Humber, who later passed out credit to his team mates, especially catcher Pierzynski.
"When you have a four-run lead you don't want to walk the leadoff guy out there no matter what the situation is," the Texas native said.
"Falling behind 3-0 there I felt myself kind of overthrowing it a bit, but I was able to get back over the plate and lot of credit goes to A.J."
Humber, who improved his MLB career record to 12-10, also appreciated how his catcher handled his sharp-breaking deliveries that dove into the dirt.
"He did a great job of calling pitches today and blocking a lot of balls in the dirt, and our offense came out and got me some runs early so it was a really good win on top of everything else," said Humber.
Konerko homered and went 2-for-4 with two runs batted in to lead Chicago's nine-hit attack.
It was the 21st perfect game ever thrown in MLB and the first since the May 29, 2010, gem tossed by Roy Halladay of the Philadelphia Phillies.
Humber had lofty expectations after the New York Mets took him in that 2004 draft but elbow problems that developed in his first year in the minor leagues led to elbow surgery and a difficult climb back to the elite level.
He was traded to the Minnesota Twins in 2008, and was cut the following year and signed by the Kansas City Royals.
Last season he began fulfilling his promise, going 9-9 with a 3.75 earned run average for the White Sox.
"I've got a little boy on the way and I just want to say hi to my wife who is home," he said. "I love you baby and that's for you."
(Reporting by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Frank Pingue)