Here is a link to the full game.
The tenth anniversary of Matt Cain’s perfect game is on Monday, June 13, but the Giants are celebrating it tomorrow (Sunday), and this is the weekend column, so I thought now would be a good opportunity to reflect upon it. It was and is the first and only perfect game in franchise history and only the 23rd in major league history. Oddly, there were three perfect games in 2012–Cain’s was the middle one–but there hasn’t been another one since Felix Hernandez threw one in August 2012. Jonathan Sanchez came very close to being the first Giant to throw a perfect game in 2009, but Juan Uribe (who ironically had been inserted for defense) made an eighth-inning error that turned out to be the only blemish on Sanchez’s no-hitter. And Yusmeiro Petit came within one strike of pitching a perfect game in 2013 but ended up with a one-hit shutout instead. Subsequent no-hitters by Tim Lincecum (2013 and 2014) and Chris Heston (2015) were far from perfect–in fact, Heston hit three(!) batters in that game. So with one thing or another, Matt Cain still stands alone in Giants history.
Here are a few serious facts about that game.
- The Giants were playing the Houston Astros, who at the time were (a) still in the National League and (b) still really bad. However, Jose Altuve was in the lineup, and I’m pretty sure that’s the only time in his career that Altuve has gone a full game without a hit. Too lazy to look it up, but I think that’s right.
- The Giants gave Cain a ten-run lead by the fifth inning. Cain spent most of his younger years pitching beautifully and losing 2-1 or 1-0, even inspiring a new verb phrase: “getting Cained,” which is still used to this day when a Giants starter pitches well with no run support.
- Cain’s 14 strikeouts tied Sandy Koufax (1965) for the most strikeouts in a perfect game. That was also Cain’s career high in strikeouts (his previous high was 12).
- Cain’s 125 pitches were the most in any major league perfect game. He also is the only pitcher to ever score a run while pitching a perfect game.
- Buster Posey was catching only the 216th game of his major league career. The average number of games caught by catchers who called perfect games is 624.
- We all know that Melky Cabrera and Gregor Blanco made stellar defensive plays to keep the perfect game alive, but did you also remember that they both hit homers in that game?
- There was a “secret reliever” warming up in the tunnel behind the dugout in the late innings in case Cain faltered. Without looking it up, do you remember who it was?
And a few goofier facts:
- A very young Brandon Belt almost ruined everything by absentmindedly sitting in Cain’s seat in the dugout during the bottom of one inning. Belt did atone by hitting a homer in that game and catching the last out (a throw from 3B Joaquin Arias). Belt can be seen in the video tucking the ball into his back pocket for safekeeping. From an Alex Pavlovic retrospective on the game:
Brandon Belt, then a 24-year-old just finding his footing, accidentally sat down in Cain’s spot in the dugout after the seventh inning. Cain’s reaction when he looked down and saw a player unaware of the jinx laws: “You goofball. Some of the things he does, that’s Belt. It was priceless.” Belt scrambled away as Ryan Vogelsong approached with a smoldering look. “I think Vogey was ready to kill me,” he said later. Yep, probably.
- Pablo Sandoval, just off the disabled list, was removed for defense in the middle of that game…just as he had been in Sanchez’s 2009 no-hitter (for Uribe). That’s why it was Arias, who had been filling in capably at 3B during Pablo’s injury, who was there to make the play for the final out. I heard Duane Kuiper reminiscing about the game on the Giants Talk podcast this week, and he (as a former infielder) made the point that it was not a routine play–Arias had to field it between hops and make a flat-footed throw to first, beating the runner by just a step. If Bruce Bochy doesn’t pull Sandoval for Arias, who knows what would or wouldn’t have happened? (But we’ll cut Pablo some slack because he ended up being World Series MVP that season.)
- Kuiper also lamented that Mike Krukow was “on assignment” that night and missed the game–a really good starting pitcher like Krukow had been would appreciate Cain’s feat more than anyone.
- The U.S. Open was happening the same week at the Olympic Club in San Francisco, and golfer Dustin Johnson threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Cain, an avid golfer, begged Bochy and Brian Sabean to join Johnson and hit one drive from home plate before the game. Sabean reluctantly agreed, and Cain hit a 310-foot drive into McCovey Cove.
- The home plate umpire, Ted Barrett, was also behind the plate for Cain’s final start before Cain’s 2017 retirement.
Buster Posey: Let’s remember that in June 2012, Buster Posey was really good (he’d been Rookie of the Year in 2010 and led the Giants to a World Series victory that year), but this was after he’d sustained a devastating ankle injury in 2011 and before he won the MVP award and batting title in 2012 (and two more World Series trophies). Posey was still just 25 years old, and 2012 was his first full season as the Giants’ starting catcher. He wasn’t quite BUSTER POSEY yet. It’s a big, big deal to guide a pitcher through a no-hitter or a perfect game. Posey would go on to catch Lincecum’s first no-hitter in 2013 and Heston’s no-no in 2015. So many Buster hugs! (Another trivia point: Who caught Lincecum’s second no-hitter, and how was Posey involved in it?)
Melky Cabrera: We all remember what Posey did in 2012, but in the first half of that season, the unquestioned star of the team was Cabrera, who was the MVP of the All-Star Game (started by Cain, caught by Posey, and in a moment of great foreshadowing, there was a key hit by Sandoval off AL starter Justin Verlander) and was leading the NL in hitting when he was popped for PEDs in August, never to be seen in a Giants uniform again. However, on Cain’s perfect night, Melky contributed a homer and an excellent leaping catch in left field in the sixth inning. This video has every out of the perfect game. Cabrera’s catch is at about 3:15.
Joaquin Arias: As noted above, Arias didn’t start the game at 3B–Pablo Sandoval did. Arias actually started at shortstop and was replaced by Brandon Crawford as Arias moved to third. The other defensive replacement made by Bochy was inserting Emmanuel Burriss at 2B in place of starter Ryan Theriot. In any event, Arias was another unsung hero not only of the perfect game (making the play for the last out) but of the 2012 season. He filled in for an injured Sandoval in May and June, he had ownage on vintage Clayton Kershaw that year, and he beat out an infield grounder to keep the Giants’ season alive in Cincinnati in Game 3 of the NLDS.
Gregor Blanco: Blanco, like Arias, was a non-roster invitee to spring training before the 2012 season. He was so impressive in camp that he made the team. Cabrera was the Opening Day right fielder, but he had moved to left field by June. Blanco had earned the job with his excellent play and was a critical part of the 2012 and 2014 championship teams. He finished the 2012 season as the left fielder (after Cabrera was busted) and the 2014 season as the center fielder (in place of an injured Angel Pagan). He was not only a valuable and somewhat unsung hero of that era but a simply delightful human being. All that said, Blanco will be remembered forever for this one play. The version I linked has Kuiper’s TV call, Dave Flemming’s radio call, and the call in Spanish (where Erwin Higueros refers to Blanco as “Superman”!). What is especially notable about the catch is that Blanco was shading the hitter, Jordan Schafer, down the right field line. He had to come a LONG way for that ball. Blanco was really, really fast, and his speed made that play. Alex Pavlovic and Duane Kuiper both said this week that they have never seen anyone, Giant or opponent, make a catch in that spot in the ballpark when starting so far down the line.
Chelsea Cain: Matt Cain’s wife was sitting in the stands with several other Giants wives (you can recognize Ali Bumgarner, Haylee Belt, and Nicole Vogelsong in the clips), and the TV cameras kept going to her in the final inning. That poor young woman looked like she wanted to throw up, but she had a happy ending and got to go down to the dugout to join Matt and Amy G for the postgame interview.
Bruce Bochy: It’s worth remembering that Cain had just signed a huge contract extension before the 2012 season that had made him the highest-paid right-handed pitcher in history. Letting Cain throw 125 pitches can’t have been easy for Bochy. (The contract was also why Sabean couldn’t bear to watch while Cain was taking a golf swing before the game!) Bochy also made the right moves defensively, and they paid off.
This Weekend’s Celebration
Matt Cain will be at the park tomorrow for the commemorative event, and they are giving away “Bobblecards” in honor of the day. Alex Pavlovic also shared on the podcast that he’s produced a special 30-minute show after he and Cain rewatched the perfect game in the NBCS-BA studio a few weeks ago. The show will be aired before tomorrow’s pregame show and again after the game. Hopefully it will soon be on the NBCS-BA website for streaming.
The Giants played another lousy week of baseball. They lost 2 out of 3 at home to the Rockies, playing terrible defense and mustering only seven runs off the Rockies’ desultory pitching staff. Joey Bart got demoted to AAA. It was bleak out there.
BUT: The Giants saw Dodger Blue last night and partied like it was 2021. In fact, they played better than in most of the 2021 matchups, which were mostly tight, tense contests (and must-see TV). They scored runs early off Walker Buehler (who left the game after four innings with a right elbow injury), added on, and played clean defense and pitched well. The Giants’ starter, Jakob Junis, also left the game early with a tight hamstring, as did Evan Longoria. Darin Ruf, back from an emotional week after his father died, had his best game of the year with two homers. The most fun moment was when Joc Pederson, who spent years trying (unsuccessfully) to lobby Dave Roberts to let him start against lefties, had a big two-out, two-run single after Roberts walked Wilmer Flores to load the bases so that Joc would face a lefty reliever. Asked about that moment after the game, Joc said he felt “unemotional,” and I call BS. But whatever. Joc 1, Doc 0.
Oh, how the tables have turned 😏 pic.twitter.com/9HqP5TArsy
— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) June 11, 2022
My theory is that the Dodgers played so poorly because their uniforms were silly.
Dodgers at Giants, 4:15 p.m. at Willie Mays Field–TV: Fox
Clayton Kershaw (4-0, 1.80 ERA) vs. Sam Long (0-1, 2.35 ERA)
Kershaw is back off the IL because of course he is, and the Giants are throwing a bullpen game against him because of course they are. Interested to see how Long does.
Happy 10th anniversary, Matt Cain! We’ll never forget that night when you were perfect. Lefty out.