How Cain I Resist?

It’s 4:35am CDT and I haven’t gone to bed.

I saw something 12 hours ago that I thought I’d never see in my big league career.  We were still three hours from first pitch of a game I’ll never forget.  That’s when Giants starter Matt Cain took a most unusual approach to his typical pre-game preparation.

His drive splashed down 315 yards away in the chilly waters of San Francisco Bay.  I asked several other starting pitchers if they’d ever try something like that on the day they were scheduled to start.  Let’s just say I didn’t find any takers.

Anyway, the Giants just happened to be hosting an on-field promotion with PGA pro Dustin Johnson.  Roughly 200 people crowded around to watch.  I was one of them.

Brian Sabean — General Manager for the San Francisco Giants — was another.  Cain begged his boss to let him take one swing.  Sabean acquiesced, but sat 20 rows up in the stands and refused to look.

Roughly five hours later, Cain was mobbed near the mound as more than 42,000 fans unleashed mighty roar.  The 27-year old righty had just thrown the first perfect game in the history of one of baseball’s proudest franchises.  This is what those last few moments looked and felt like for Siri, or whomever it is who lives inside my iPhone:

Since the New York Gothams first suited up in 1883, no member of the now-Giants franchise had ever retired all 27 hitters in a game.  Christy Mathewson didn’t do it.  Neither did Juan Marichal.  Forget about Carl Hubbell, Gaylord Perry, Tim Lincecum and, well, you get the point.

As is tradition, the Hall of Fame asks for the pitching slab.  Long after the crowd had gone, I watched them remove it.  Now you can too.

Fans and participants will forever remember this game.  One of the most perfect in perfect-game history.  They’ll remember Gregor Blanco‘s impossible diving catch in the seventh inning which robbed Jordan Schafer of a triple.  They’ll remember how the cold air and wind knocked down a sure homerun off the bat of Chris Snyder in the sixth inning.

Personally, I’ll remember that Cain was loose enough to drive a golf ball a mile into the Bay before the game.  I remember that he never once shook off his catcher, Buster Posey.

My prevailing memory of the night, however, will not be what Cain did on the mound.  It will be what he did when no one was watching.

Leading 10-0 and six outs away from perfection, Cain led off the inning by hitting a ground ball to third base.  He could have jogged it out.  No one would have cared.  Instead he busted his tail down the line — giving the same determined effort he’d ask of his teammates.  He risked potential injury and fatigue just as they’d done for him.

Matt Cain will forever be remembered as the man who threw baseball’s 22nd perfect game.  How could they forget?

I hope, however, that some young ballplayer might also remember the way Cain accomplished the great feat.  I hope someone remembers him for trusting his catcher and running out groundballs.

Matt Cain accomplished something spectacular Wednesday night.

While the world prepared to celebrate him, Cain chose to honor his teammates, his opponents and this unpredictable, unbelievably beautiful game.

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PERFECT PERSPECTIVES

• I ran into plate umpire, Ted Barrett, after the game.  In chatting about Matt Cain’s performance, I asked if he’d ever seen a perfect game before.  He had the plate for David Cone‘s perfect game on July 18, 1999 when the Yankees beat the Montreal Expos 6-0.  Barrett is the only umpire to be behind the plate for two perfect games.

• Barrett and crew member Brian Runge worked Philip Humber‘s perfect game in Seattle in April.  Runge had the plate for that game.  They also worked Cain’s 1-hitter against the Pirates this year.

• Runge’s grandfather, Ed Runge, was on the umpiring crew in 1965 when Don Larson threw the most famous perfect game of all-time: the Yankees 2-0 win over the Dodgers in Game 5 of the World Series.

• I also saw Gregor Blanco after the game.  He told me that he didn’t think he was going to make the catch on Schafer’s ball in the seventh inning:  “I just kept running as fast as I could.  That’s all I could do.”

• In over 250,000 games and 143 years of Major League baseball only 22 pitchers have ever thrown a perfect game.  I realize that I’m rounding a lot of numbers here, but that gives fans a 0.009% chance of seeing a perfect game at any time.

• The 10-0 score of Wednesday’s game represents the largest margin in a perfect game.

• Matt Cain is the only pitcher to score a run in a perfect game.  He singled and scored in the sixth inning.

• Here’s what my scorecard looked like:

• I had a blog post more-or-less prepared as the game started last night and never submitted it.  It’s almost more intriguing with the ability to look back now.  I had a little fun with our good buddy, Jim Deshaies, too.  You can read it below.  I left it untouched.

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AROUND THE HORN (O’ PLENTY)

Today’s edition of Everybody Reads Raymond features a cornucopia of observations and curiosities.  Frankly, it’s difficult to pull myself away from the distractions of what I consider to be one of the greatest cities on the planet — San Francisco.  The Astros are in town for a three-game series with the Giants, the US Open is underway at the historic Olympic Club (which features the greatest cheeseburger you’ll ever eat) and discarded gravestones and broken tomb markers are washing up on the shores of Ocean Beach.

Yes, you can see just about anything in this eclectic city.  Except, perhaps, homeruns.

AT&T Park — home of the Giants — is easily the most homer-resistant park in the big leagues.  Prior to Tuesday’s game, San Francisco fans hadn’t seen the home club hit one over the fence in nearly a month.  The Giants went 6 consecutive home games which included more than 500 at bats without a homerun.  It represented the longest such drought since the team ventured out west in 1958.

The last team in baseball to go that long without a homerun in their home park?  The 1990 Houston Astros.

First baseman Glenn Davis hit 22 HR that year.  Franklin Stubbs knocked out 23 as the everyday left fielder.  The 1990 Astros featured a 27-year old Ken Caminiti at 3B, but he only hit 4 HR that season.  Despite the pitching-friendly dimensions of the Astrodome, I was surprised to learn that lineup had such a tough stretch.

I could blame it on Jim Deshaies.  After all, he didn’t hit any homers in 1990.  As many of you know, JD still holds the major league record for most career plate appearances (373) without an extra base hit of any kind.  Then again, we don’t expect pitchers to do a lot of hitting.  Right?

(gulp)

Someone forgot to mention that to Madison Bumgarner.  The big left-hander had never hit one out in his big league career.  Until last night.

With the Astros leading, 1-0, in the bottom of the third, Bumgarner got a fastball down the middle from Bud Norris.  He didn’t miss it.  In fact, he launched it through the chilly San Francisco air into the bleachers in left field to tie the game.  Fine, so maybe pitchers can hit.  I’ll amend my earlier claim and say that pitchers-turned-broadcaster can’t hit.

Much better.

Bumgarner didn’t seem satisfied to simply put an end to the Giants’ power-outage.  He pitched pretty well, too.  There’s nothing fancy about the guy either.  He’s just a hulking 22-year old boy from the quiet countryside of North Carolina.  He speaks with a drawl that you’d swear he’s faking.  He gave his wife a five-day old bull calf for a wedding present.  He also throws in the low-90s and features one of the best sliders in Major League Baseball.

In his 7.2 innings of work, Bumgarner struck out 12 Astros hitters and did not issue a walk.  It’s been a while since a Giants pitcher posted a double-digit strikeout effort on the same night he homered.  Would you believe 27 years?

In front of fewer than 3,000 fans on August of 1985, Mike Krukow went the distance at Candlestick Park.  He hit a solo homerun and punched out 12 hitters.  The Giants won 4-2 that day…over the Astros.  Amazing symmetry.

Oh, and Mike Krukow is a beloved broadcaster for the San Francisco Giants.

I’m starting to run out of excuses for JD.

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GOOD NEWS, BAD NEWS

The Astros will not have to face Tim Lincecum in their series at AT&T Park.  The two-time Cy Young award winner is 5-0 with a 1.14 ERA against the Astros in the eight starts he’s had against them.  No one would blame Astros fans for rejoicing.

Ironically, this is the year to face the Giants superstar.  He’s struggled to a 2-7 record with a 6.00 ERA in his 13 starts.  The Giants are 2-11 in games Lincecum pitches.

San Francisco is 33-16 in all other contests; a winning percentage of .673 which would dwarf that of any other team in baseball.

On Wednesday, the Astros draw Matt Cain.  His numbers pop off the stat sheet again this year.  However, he’s never had success against the Astros.  In seven starts against Houston, Cain is 1-3 with a 4.69 ERA.  It will be interesting to see how it plays out.

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MEMORIES

When the Seattle Mariners completed a six-pitcher no-hitter last week, it reminded many of the Astros similar accomplishment against the Yankees in 2003.

I checked the box score of that ’03 contest and noticed that current White Sox manager Robin Ventura was lifted for a pinch hitter in the ninth inning.  Ventura was a left-handed hitter and the Astros used Billy Wagner in the ninth.  I asked Ventura about it on Sunday.

“I don’t remember much about the game, except that every time I looked up they were using another pitcher,” Ventura said.

He didn’t even remember that he gave way to a pinch hitter in the game.  When I asked Ventura about the perceived controversy surrounding Yankees hitting coach Rick Down after the game, he again claimed no memory.

“Heck, [George] Steinbrenner wanted to fire somebody everyday.” he said. “

2 thoughts on “How Cain I Resist?

  1. Hated that the Astros did not win but watching that game was quite an experience. We ended up rooting for Matt Cain to get the perfect game!

  2. Great piece of writing, Dave. I watched the game on the tube. At least I can say that I have seen a perfect game….I really enjoyed the tidbits about the umps and the ’round the horn. Maybe I have under rated Stanford all these years – Just please explain the Christmas tree dancing on the sidelines.

    Your perspectives on the San Fran trip were great. Headstones on the beach are unbelievable.

    Keep up the great work

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