Last night in San Francisco, California Matt Cain may have had the most brilliant pitching performance in the long history of baseball. Yes, Matt Cain threw the 22nd perfect game in the storied tradition of Major League Baseball in blanking the Houston Astros 10-0 on Wednesday night, but the way that he went about it is what makes it all the more impressive.
A perfect game means 27 up, 27 down; no errors made in the field, no hit batsman or walks allowed, nobody reaching base. It takes an incredible amount of luck to pitch a perfect game (in addition to a pitcher being on top of their game) and some of the game’s best pitchers never accomplished one. In the case of David Wells, one of the game’s most hung-over pitchers threw one, so you never know when the baseball gods will grace fans with such a spectacular moment. Last night, one of those special moments happened at AT&T Park.
Matt Cain’s 125 pitch effort last night resulted in the first perfect game in San Francisco Giants history. What makes it even cooler from my view is that the man behind the plate calling the pitches for Cain was none other than Buster Posey, the former Nole great who was key part in bringing San Francisco their first World Series title (the Giants won their first five in New York). After the game, Cain said of Posey, “I can’t thank Buster enough, I didn’t even question once what he was calling.” If that’s not the mark of a great catcher and one that knows the game extremely well, then I don’t know what is.
Cain also had a couple of his outfielders to thank after the game. Both corner outfielders, Melky Cabrera in left-field and Gregor Blanco in right-field made some incredible catches to keep the perfect game intact. Melky made a leaping catch at the wall in the 5th inning and Blanco making a diving catch on the warning track in the 7th. Of those plays, Cain called them “incredible catches” and said that those two plays changed the whole thing. You know it’s a special night when your outfielders are making plays like that and those two plays stood out the most from a defensive perspective.
Mr. Cain also did a lot of the work himself. In throwing what will be the most memorable game of his career, he also set a career-high in strikeouts with 14 on the evening. If you are going to set personal bests why not have them come at the perfect time. It takes most starting pitchers two, maybe three, starts to amass 14 strikeouts and even in facing a weaker club like Houston that would have been an impressive performance by itself. Add in that no runners reached base on Cain and you have one of the top pitching gems in baseball history.
2012 is shaping up to be the year of the pitcher. With Cain’s outing last night we now have seen two perfect games this season and five no-hitters. Not since 1917 have there been 5 no hitters thrown in a season by mid-June, so as you can see we are on pace for a historic year in Major League Baseball, at least as it relates to pitchers. What I love about baseball is that on any given night something miraculous like this can happen, and I can’t wait to see who rises up and pitches the ballgame of their life next.