Perfect game thrusts Matt Cain into well-deserved spotlight

The San Francisco Giants swarm pitcher Matt Cain after his 14-strikeout perfect game Wednesday night. (Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)

On Wednesday, July 13, 2012, Matthew Thomas Cain threw the first perfect game in San Francisco Giants history and the 22nd in MLB history in a 10-0 romping over a sometimes professional level Houston Astros club.

Cain struck out 14 on 125 total pitches and, almost just to show us that he could, clocked his 125th pitch at a steaming 94 miles per hour. He struck out more than 50 percent of the batters he faced.

And the highlight play of the night goes to Gregor Blanco’s diving snag on a line drive into the triples alley portion of AT&T Park’s enormous center field.

So, those are the facts. Here’s what you might not know. Cain sports a career ERA of right around 3.30, but twice in the last four years he has kept it under three. In 2010, when the Giants made their improbable World Series run, Cain pitched 21.1 scoreless innings in the playoffs. He did not yield a single run the entire 2010 postseason, his first of such appearances, if you were wondering. Despite all of this, Cain is only two games over .500 for his career, which is more than he could say for the majority of his time as a pro. People familiar with the club sometimes call it getting “Cained” when, despite a pitcher’s best efforts, the Giant’s “offense” refuses to score runs. This is a practice we have become all too familiar with in San Francisco, so it’s borderline hysterical that, on the day that Cain doesn’t allow a base runner, the Giants hit three home runs in the first five innings on their way to putting a 10-spot on the board.

I’m rambling, so let me get to the point: There is not a single pitcher in all of baseball, as far as I’m concerned, that deserved this more than “big daddy” Cain. He has played second fiddle since arriving in San Francisco, first to Barry Zito and then to Tim Lincecum. He has received notoriously low run support and, since he typically pitches to contact, his strikeout totals have never been staggering. He never finishes high in the Cy Young voting and doesn’t get much All-Star consideration, despite being the anchor of the Giant’s rotation for the better part of six years. And through all of that, he has never uttered a peep of complaint. He is the silent hero of San Francisco. He was recently voted by a player poll in Sports Illustrated as the most underrated pitcher in the league, and we in San Francisco can only smile and nod silently. As if there were anything that could make me love this whole thing anymore, in a pre-game promotion for TaylorMade golf only four hours before his start, Cain drove a golf ball 310 yards from home plate into the cold waters of McCovey Cove.

It seems fitting that, on a team filled with characters and personalities, the quietest guy in the dugout made more noise than anyone in the club’s 128-year history.

I could talk more about Blanco’s fantastic catch in center field. Or even Melky Cabrerra’s clutch grab up against the wall. I could probably go on about the fact that Cain did not shake off a single pitch from young All-Star bound catcher, Buster Posey. But that’s not what Wednesday night was about. It was about Cain getting a national spotlight. It was about Cain showing fans and experts alike that he was well worth the monster contract he signed in the offseason. It was about Cain getting exactly what Cain deserved, finally.

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