Unlucky no more – Matt Cain is perfect

Matt Cain recorded the first ever perfect game for the Giants’ franchise, as San Francisco bombed Houston 10-0 at AT&T Park. Cain’s 14 strikeouts tied Sandy Koufax for the most ever in a perfecto. The key defensive play came on a deep fly ball by Jordan Schafer leading off the 7th, as right-fielder Gregor Blanco made a diving catch on the warning track. The final out was recorded on a true Joaquin Arias throw from deep behind 3rd base, on a weak grounder by pinch-hitter Jason Castro.

Cain’s gem is the 9th no-hitter in Giants history, following former teammate Jonathan Sanchez who no-hit the Padres without a walk on July 10th, 2009. Earlier this season, Cain logged a one-hit 1-0 shutout against the Pirates, with opposing starter James McDonald the only Buc to reach base.

This is the second perfect game this season, following Philip Humber of the White Sox who blanked Seattle on April 21st. Two perfect games in a season has happened only twice before – in 2010 by Dallas Braden and Roy Halladay, and way back in 1880 by Lee Richmond and Monte Ward. This is also the 5th perfect game in the past 4 seasons, the most concentrated grouping of perfectos ever. In comparison, the 5 preceding perfect games occurred over 14 seasons, from 1991 to 2004.

30 thoughts on “Unlucky no more – Matt Cain is perfect

  1. 1
    birtelcom says:

    First Game Score over 100 in the majors since Kerry Wood struck out 20 in a one-hitter in 1998.

    • 10
      John Autin says:

      Cain (101) and Dickey (95) had Game Scores of 95+ on the same date.

      It’s the 24th time that two such games occurred on the same date. However….

      Most 95+ Game Scores since 1918 came in outings of at least 10 innings (181 of 305). And that’s where 20 of the 24 same-date 95+ Game Scores came from — two pitchers in the same game dueling into extra innings. Another same-date pair featured a 16-inning game by Gaylord Perry on the same night as Woody Fryman’s regulation shutout.

      Innings pitched is a huge factor in Game Score — each full inning from the 5th on is worth 5 points. Just a few of those extra-inning performances would have scored 95+ if cut off after 9 innings.

      So, for 9-inning game scores of 95+, it’s just the 3rd time two have come on the same date. The others:
      — 2004-05-18, Randy Johnson’s perfect game and Jason Schmidt’s 1-hitter, both with 13 Ks.
      — 2001-05-25, Kerry Wood and Hideo Nomo tossing near-identical 1-hitters with 14 Ks.

  2. 2
    MikeD says:

    Looking over the list of perfect games thrown in MLB history, I was struck by a key difference between those who throw perfect games compared to those who throw no-hitters. Better quality pitchers. A high percentage of the perfect game crowd were very good pitchers, even HOFers. Not all. Humber and Braden are certainly questionable. Yet the great to the very good to just the plain good, be they named Halladay, Johnson, Hunter, Koufax, Bunning, Cone, Wells, Buehrle, and now Cain, etc. seem to comprise a fairly high percentage of the names. The same can not be said for no-hitters. Oh there are even more quality names just because of the volume, but as a percentage, the perfect game crowd seem to be better pitchers.

    Not sure if it means anyhing, although I think it does.

  3. 3

    Glad to see the updated post! I had to track down the old Cain post for my celebratory comment, so I’ll officially celebrate here as well!

    Matt Cain is to me as Juan Pierre is to Timmy Pea, I just don’t post as much for it to be noticed…

    He is my favorite player in all of baseball, and yes, it’s because of fantasy baseball (Insert eye-rolling here). Many have come and gone from my team in its 11 years of existence, but Cain was the one constant for seven years. The promise was always there, but despite a lack of control, atrocious run-support, and constantly playing second fiddle to Tim Lincecum, I continued to stick with him. I kept using a valuable keeper selction on him despite all the naysayers who thought he’d eventually meltdown, and that his window of opportunity had passed. I knew one of these years, he’d finally break through and become an ace, and reward all that faith I had in him….

    I feel both happy and proud after tonight’s perfecto, the perfect compliment to his finest season…… until next year!

    Congratulations to Matt! As I said in my other comment, it couldn’t have happened to a more deserving guy…

    • 15
      Doug says:

      Evil, I see that we both (independently) came up with the same “Unlucky no more” tag line (I saw your comment on the older post after I published this one).

      Very apropos for a guy with 4 on-hitters – reminds me of Dave Stieb finally getting a no-hitter after coming so close so often.

  4. 4
    tag says:

    That Blanco catch was like a mirror-image of the one Dewayne Wise made to save Buehrle’s perfect game for the White Sox. Blanco went deep to right-center, Wise to left-center; Blanco extended, dived and went to the dirt for his while Wise elevated, reached and went over the wall for his. Both superior catches that saved perfect games.

    • 6
      no statistician but says:

      An interesting question: How many times did great plays contribute to perfect games? I remember that Mantle made an astounding running catch of a bullet line drive by Gil Hodges—maybe?— in Don Larsen’s WS gem, and there was another great fielding play in that game too, I think.

      • 17
        Richard Chester says:

        I think that the other great play you are referring to occurred in the top of the second inning. Jackie Robinson hit a line drive to third. Andy Carey reached to his left and deflected the ball to SS Gil McDougald who then threw Robinson out at first on a close play. I remember reading somewhere that McDougald later admitted that a young Jackie Robinson would have beaten his throw to first.

      • 19
        James Smyth says:

        Another great catch is Rusty Greer’s that recorded the first out of the ninth in Kenny Rogers’ perfect game

        Video from @BBTiA (the catch is at the 3:00 mark)

        There’s also this one by Austin Jackson during Armando Galarraga’s *perfect game* which also got out number one in the ninth


  5. 5
    RJ says:

    I love Matt Cain. I was two starts away from calling it (sort of)! http://www.highheatstats.com/2012/06/johan-has-done-it/#comment-27579

  6. 7
    John Autin says:

    I picked the wrong night to go to bed on time!

    And to think — but for two miscues by David Wright, there might have been two perfect games in the same evening.

    • 16
      Doug says:

      I would have left this post to you, John. But, I figured you had probably retired when I didn’t see any comments from you about this on your Wednesday post.

      I’m on the west coast, so I got to see snippets of Cain’s game during the Angels/Dodgers tilt.

  7. 8
    John Autin says:

    And where was THIS Gregor Blanco with Atlanta and KC? After 2+ middling years in the bigs, he spent last year back in the minors, hitting .201. Now, suddenly, he’s one of the best leadoff men around — 33 runs in 38 games batting 1st, a 135 OPS+ over all, and (obviously) good defense.

  8. 9
    nightfly says:

    Take THAT, Bumgarner!

  9. 11
    John Autin says:

    Cain’s 4 CGs of 1 hit or less are:
    — the most by a Giant since 1918, tied with Marichal and Hubbell;
    — the most in MLB this century, tied with … Anibal Sanchez?

    Since 1980, only Nolan Ryan (8) and Randy Johnson & Dave Stieb (6 each) have more.

  10. 12
    topper009 says:

    I remember when these perfect games used to mean something. Clearly, pitchers are all juicing nowadays since there has been a decrease in scoring and hitters juicing is the ONLY explanation for an increase in scoring.

  11. 13
    tag says:

    Not to deny the greatness of Cain’s pitching on Thursday night, especially with those 14Ks, but it’s interesting how the ballpark factor, which was discussed in relation to no-hitters in a recent topic, came heavily, perhaps decisively into play. In a lot of parks, I’d venture to say most even, Snyder’s ball is gone and Schafer’s is at least off the wall. In fact, there might only be a small handful of parks, given the deep blasts Cain gave up to left field and right-center, where this perfecto would remain one. It doesn’t detract from the achievement one bit; it’s just further evidence of why these are rarer at Wrigley, Fenway, et al.

    • 20
      MikeD says:

      Sure. It is part of the equation. There is clearly a luck factor in all no-hitters and perfect games. (Although I’m still wrestling with the idea I noted prior that those who throw perfect games seem to be, as a group, a higher quality of pitcher than those who toss no-hitters.)

      Cain’s game was fantastic, although interestingly his command seemed a bit off, which is amazing considering off-command should lead to a walk or two. Over my many years of watching MLB, I have seen other games that I’d rate equal or even ahead of Cain’s, where the pitcher seemed even more dominant than Cain, but luck wasn’t quite on their side to also get a no-hitter or perfect game.

      I think Cain has taken a no-hitter into the 8th inning five times now (or is it four?). Clearly when he’s on he’s tough to hit. My guess is he’ll find a way to be lucky at least one more time and throw another no-hitter in his career.

    • 21
      Jameson says:

      I don’t want to take anything away from Cain’s achievement either, but the quality of the opposition can sometimes be a factor in a no-no or perfecto.

  12. 14
    Doug says:

    I’ve updated the post with links to videos of two of the key plays in Cain’s perfecto.

  13. 22
    GrandyMan says:

    Ted Barrett becomes the first man to umpire two perfect games. He was also the home plate ump for Cone’s perfecto.

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