June 14, 2012 in Sports

Giants ace strikes out 14 in sparkling effort

Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Pictured are “K cards” put up by fans, monitoring the way toward Cain’s 14 strikeouts.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

SAN FRANCISCO – For all those Giants masterpieces, from Christy Mathewson to Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry, Matt Cain topped them all.

Cain pitched the franchise’s first perfect game and the 22nd in major league history, striking out a career-high 14 and getting help from two spectacular catches to beat the Houston Astros 10-0 on Wednesday night.

Cain’s 125-pitch gem for San Francisco featured a pair of great plays by his corner outfielders. He got pinch-hitter Jason Castro on a grounder to third for his 27th and final out with the sellout crowd of 42,298 roaring.

“This is incredible right now,” Cain said. “It was unbelievable. The guys did a great job making it, in a way, kind of relaxing, because they were able to get on the board early.”

It was the fifth no-hitter in the majors already this season and second perfect game.

In the ballpark where Barry Bonds made home run history five summers ago, Cain produced the signature moment for pitchers. It was the 14th no-hitter in club history – Mathewson pitched Nos. 2 and 3 in 1901 and ’05, and Marichal and Perry had one apiece.

Left fielder Melky Cabrera chased down Chris Snyder’s one-out flyball in the sixth, scurrying back to make a leaping catch at the wall. Cain raised both arms and slapped his glove in delight when Cabrera made the play.

Then, right fielder Gregor Blanco ran into deep right-center to make a diving catch on the warning track and rob Jordan Schafer for the first out of the seventh. The 27-year-old pitcher hugged Blanco in the dugout after the inning.

“Those were unbelievable catches,” Cain said. “I mean that right there, that changes the whole thing.”

Philip Humber of the Chicago White Sox tossed the majors’ last perfecto at Seattle on April 21. This is the second time in three years there have been two perfect games in the same season – before that, the only other time it happened was in 1880.

Cain (8-2) accomplished a feat last done in the Bay Area by A’s lefty Dallas Braden on Mother’s Day 2010.

Not since 1917 have there been five no-hitters in a season by mid-June. The only year that came close was 1990, when Fernando Valenzuela and Dave Stewart each pitched no-hitters on June 29 – the fourth and fifth of the season.

This year, Johan Santana tossed the New York Mets’ first no-hitter on June 1 and six Seattle pitchers shut down the Los Angeles Dodgers last Friday. Jered Weaver had one for the Los Angeles Angels on May 2.

The Astros were no-hit for the fifth time and first since Carlos Zambrano did so for the Cubs on Sept. 14, 2008.

“Just an incredible night,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “We were all pulling so hard.”

The Giants made a big commitment to Cain this spring, locking him up for a long haul – and he showed exactly why general manager Brian Sabean has vowed to keep his talented pitchers. Cain delivered his most impressive gem in his 216th career start.

The 125 pitches were the most thrown in a perfect game.

The two-time All-Star who had long been the Giants starter who endured a lack of run support already was rewarded with a $127.5 million, six-year contract in early April before the season started. This certainly meant as much or more to the homegrown pitcher.

Cain threw 86 pitches for strikes, faced just four full counts and still clocked 90 mph in the ninth. Cain followed up Madison Bumgarner’s 12-strikeout gem in Tuesday night’s 6-3 win.

“I know when I haven’t given up a hit, I’m always conscious of it,” Cain said. “Probably the first time through the lineup I felt like I had good stuff. The first time through the lineup I felt like something could happen.”

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