Thursday, June 14, 2012

Matt Cain - The perfect guy for perfection

It started with a guy flying a hydraulic jetpack over McCovey Cove and ended with a riot on the pitcher’s mound. What most of us thought was going to be another ho-hum Wednesday night match up with the Astros will without a doubt go down in the annals of San Francisco folklore.
Matt Cain pitched a perfect game - only the 22nd in MLB history and the first in the Giants 128-year existence.

Too much awesome

Cain's big day started out long before first pitch, as the US Open prompted an unusual pregame change of pace for the Giants' ace. Several hours before first pitch, in front of a gaggle of cameras and reporters, Cain, Rory McElroy and others turned AT&T Park into a driving range, launching golf balls from a tee at home plate into McCovey Cove. Cain took one swing - a beautiful one at that - and hit a shot that sailed further than any ball hit into the Cove since Barry Bonds still swung the sticks. I'd say that Cain should quit his day job and take up golf but, hey, he proved last night that he's a man of many talents.
The scene at AT&T Park only got better from there. At some point in the first inning, a guy flying a hydraulic jetpack emerged in McCovey Cove, turning the usually serene landscape of China Basin into a scene out of "The Avengers." This sight nearly melted Twitter in the Bay Area, but it would turn out to be an afterthought when all was said and done.

That wasn't the only afterthought of the night. What was also left in the dust of Matt Cain's perfection was the outburst of Giants offense in a home park that has been anything but kind to its hometown hitters. Melky Cabrera was 2-for-5 with a 2-run homer in the bottom of the first. Gregor Blanco was 2-for-5 with 3 RBIs and a homer. Pablo Sandoval was 3-for-4 with 2 RBIs, and the #FreeBelt movement pushed right along as Brandon hit his second home run in as many nights, finishing the evening 2-for-3 with 3 RBIs.

But offense-shmoffense. Let's talk about what really owned the evening.

Just how perfect was Matt Cain?

According to ESPN Stats and Info, Matt Cain pitched possibly the best perfect game ever. Cain's 14 strike outs tied Sandy Koufax for the most in the history of perfect games; it was also a career-high.  His game score, 101, tied Koufax for the highest in perfect game history (an average game score for a pitcher is around 50). His velocity increased as the game wore on, from 90 to around 94 in the later innings, and he struck out 11 of the 14 on fastballs. His command was immaculate all night, painting corners with his fastball and letting his curveballs tumble out of the zone gracefully all game long.

Getting high with a little help from his friends

It's been said that there is at least one amazing catch in every perfect game, and in Matt Cain's case that catch came from Gregor Blanco. It was the 7th inning when the Astros' Jordan Schafer scorched a ball to deep right-center. Everyone watching, Cain included, probably thought that it was the end of the perfect game bid, as the ball was quickly sailing to that no man's land on the warning track in between the range of Angel Pagan and Blanco. But the White Shark had enough fuel in his tank, and enough sense of the moment, to track it down in spectacular fashion, successfully wrangling a diving catch that will go down in history as one of the greatest grabs in San Francisco sports lore.
Blanco wasn't the only one to help out Cain Wednesday night. Melky Cabrera made a spectacular catch on a Chris Snyder ball that got crushed to the warning track in left field. And the Giants' infield, a group that's faced its hiccups over the course of the 2012 season, found a way to rise to the occasion as the game wore on and the mercury rose. We can't forget Buster Posey either, as he was the man who quarterbacked the perfecto. Posey, who said it was the most nervous he had ever been on a baseball field (and he caught the final out of the Giants 2010 World Series victory), somehow managed to find a rhythm with Cain and keep Houston batters off-kilter for 27 perfect outs. He may be the most underrated performer of the night.


Perhaps the most symbolic aspect of the night is that THIS was the game that turned Cain's career win-loss record into a winning 76-75. Cain got an anomalous 10 runs of support, but he wouldn't need a single one of them. With not just a team, but an entire city behind him, Cain rose to the occasion and showed the sporting world just what a special player he is. Because after all, Cain has always been a special player, but last night he was perfect.

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