The Monday Morning Quarterback

Perfect Pitch

On the evening of Wednesday, June 13, the San Francisco Giants made history in AT&T Park. Let this be my humble submission (a time-out from from my usual advertising and marketing pieces) to ensure that we not let that great game dim in hazy memory.

Nobody, but nobody would have predicted what happened that night when that ragtag bunch of athletes, who lead all of baseball in errors, played perfectly.

Commentators will dispute this and try to dampen spirits by pointing out that there was an official or two that made a questionable call in the Giants’ favor, but forget it, a win is a win is a win.

From Melky Cabrera’s superb left field wall catch to Gregor Blanco’s impossible dive and catch in the running track, to that final achingly slow catch and flat-footed throw by Joaquin Arias to first base, the Giants performed the way we wish they could every day, but rarely do. Buster Posey called all of the pitches – Cain never waved one off. Even error-prone Brandon Crawford, taking a well-deserved night off, jumped into the game in the fifth inning to strengthen the defense. What a great experience for them – and for us – to prove how good they are at baseball.

And then there was Matt. Yes, the Giants have more well-known (and better-paid) pitchers in Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito. They have an-in-from-the-wilderness pitcher in Ryan Vogelsong and a super-young wonder-man named Madison Bumgarner. There’s the recovering Brian Wilson, the righteous Jeremy Affeldt, the assured sidewinder Javier Lopez, the ever-smiling Sergio Romo, the controlled Santiago Casilla and the promising Clay Hensley. But for season after season since 2005, the Giants have counted on their workhorse Matt Cain to deliver the consistent goods.

He delivered, but good, on June 13, and the stats prove it.

For nine innings, Matt Cain was perfect. In a 10-0 win, he retired all 27 batters that the Houston Astros dared to put before him. He did it with a career-high 14 strikeouts, matching Sandy Koufax for the most ever in a perfect game. It was the second perfect game of the season, the 22nd perfect game in MLB history, and only the third time in MLB history that two perfect games were pitched in the same season. It was the first perfect game in Giants franchise history, and you have to go back to the 19th century to find another Giant who even came close to what Cain accomplished.

If you were lucky, you were one of over 42,000 in the Park. If you were fortunate to watch the game from the beginning on TV, you were part of a nail-biting edge-of-your-seat drama that, from at least the fourth inning on, kept you glued to the screen. To hear the boys call the game (an elated Duane Kuiper and a gasping Jon Miller, subbing for what could only be a desolate Mike Krukow) was as much a joy as watching it.

It was joyful because Cain really was perfect. He had everything going, a blazing fastball and a changeup that kept the Astros off balance and made his 94-mph heater look like 114 mph. He threw stronger and better and more accurately with each inning. There were probably only four pitches in the entire game he wishes he could take back, but those near-misses were turned to his favor by excellent back-up from what has grown up to be, for once, the best defense in baseball. Cain was in such good form that, in the ninth inning, Posey called for and Cain threw a curveball.

Oh, it was delirious. A wonderful night of baseball, maybe as good or even better than those playoffs and Series games in 2010. And the reason was good ol’ Matt Cain. Any of the pitchers on the Giants staff would have been cheered as long and as lustily as Cain. But I don’t think any of them would have stayed on the field as long as he did. After it was all over and the records were being reported and the fans were still in the stands, there was Cain, still on the field, as reluctant to leave as we were to let him go.

Later, after all the cheering died down and the crowds were leaving AT&T Park to the seagulls, Manager Bruce Bochy admitted that he had right-hander Shane Loux warming up in the subterranean batting cage adjacent to the Giants dugout since at least the fifth inning. Bochy correctly reasoned that keeping Loux out of sight would prevent the fans from starting a mutiny.

Still later, two players engaged in a wry ceremony. After stretching to catch the game winning out, first baseman Brandon Belt was seen tucking the ball into his pocket as he ran to join the celebration on the mound. When the party wound down in the clubhouse, Belt presented the game ball to Cain.

“I asked for a Corvette but he said he wouldn’t give me one,” Belt said.

Many of the game’s souvenirs, including Cain’s hat and glove, were sent to the Hall of Fame, while Cain got to hold on to the game ball.

“He was trying to keep it and put it on eBay,” Cain said with a smile. “That’s Brandon for you.”


~ Art Reker, Account and Creative Executive