Matt Cain threw a perfect game Wednesday night, the first one in the 128-year history of the Giants franchise. Just moments after the game ended, Dave Cameron provided some historical context on Cainâs pitching performance, looking at the highest GameScores in baseball history. Iâve had a bit more time for reflection.
If you read my posts regularly, you know Iâm a Giants fan. A passionate, analytical, demanding Giants fan. I watch or listen to nearly every game. I pour over numbers and charts. I conjure trades and free-agent signings, and despair when they donât come to fruition. I complain about lineups and bullpen usage and Brandon Belt not getting enough playing time. Yes, a lot of complaining about Brandon Belt. You do the same for your favorite team. We love baseball. We love our team. Itâs what we do.
I watched the game at home with my kids. Itâs summer time and theyâre out of school, so the âno TV during dinnerâ rule is relaxed. Good thing. Cain threw the first pitch at 7:15 p.m. and before I could say âfinish your vegetables, kidsâ the top of the first was over. Strikeout. Strikeout. Pop up. Nothing unusual. Cainâs pitched very well this season and he typically has easy first innings. Tonight was no different.
The Giants scored two in the bottom of the first off a home run by Melky Cabrera. Brandon Belt doubled the score in the second with another two-run shot. It was Beltâs second home run of the season. The first came in Tuesday nightâs game, on his last at-bat of the game. The buzz on the broadcast and on twitter focused on the sudden power surge for the Giants. Before Tuesdayâs game, the Giants had played 16 consecutive home games without hitting a home run.
By the end of the second, the Giants led 5-0. In the post-Bonds years, the Giants havenât played many games with an early lead, much less a 5-run lead in the third. Especially when Matt Cain is on the mound. In Cainâs 216 career regular-season starts before the perfect game, the Giants had scored 5 or more runs in the game only 68 times.
The lead grew to 7-0 after three innings and to 8-0 after four. It was time to clean up from dinner and start getting the kids to bed. No worries. Iâd watch an inning or two on Gameday and come back to the broadcast. But that didnât happen. I stood at the sink, filled to brim with dirty dishes, and watched Cain pitch. 30 minutes later, I hadnât moved an inch.
The fastball was zipping. The change-up was darting. And the curve was curving. Cainâs motion looked effortless. Every pitch seemed to have a little extra on it.
Indeed, they did. The average velocities on his two-seamer (91.4), his four-seamer (91.6), his curve (78.3) and his change-up (86.2) were the highest of the season. More than one mile per hour faster on each pitch, as compared to the Giantsâ home opener, when Cain pitched a one-hitter, facing only one batter over the minimum.
I was mesmerized.
âMommy, I need you,â sobbed my 8-year-old. âI need you upstairs. Now.â
My daughter loves the Giants and loves Matt Cain but on this night, her focus was on the play sheâll be performing in on Friday. âI canât remember all the lines to the songs I have to sing. We donât have enough time. Itâs too much pressure.â Â As she lay on the floor of her room in tears, I toggled back and forth between Gameday on my iPad and twitter on my phone. Gamedayâs reporting of Chris Snyderâs flyout to left fielder Melky Cabrera in the top of the 6th became âOh wow! What a catch by Melkyâ on twitter.
âItâs too much pressure,â she repeated.
âYou want to know pressure?!?!â I thought. âMatt Cainâs pitching a perfect game through six innings. Thatâs pressure!â
But thatâs not what I said.
I sat quietly on the floor with her, holding her in my arms. I thought about what it means to feel pressure, about wanting to do your very best. I thought about how an 8-year-old deals with that. I thought about how Matt Cain has dealt with it since becoming a Giant in 2005: with quiet strength, calmness, humor, and dignity. I wondered what Matt Cain was like as an 8-year-old. I wondered if heâd ever thrown himself on the floor after a Little League game, in tears and frustration.
I wondered what was going on in the game.
I missed Gregor Blancoâs spectacular catch in the top of the 7th. (Iâve since made up for that by watching the replay 7,382 times. You can start now, here.) By the time I got my daughter in and out of the bath, sheâd stopped crying, it was the 8th inning, and my heart was beating out of my chest.
I was lucky enough to be at AT&T Park for Jonathan Sanchezâs no-hitter in 2009. I was there when Bonds hit 660. I was there for every home game of the 2010 postseason, save for one. I know how that ballpark feels when something special is happening. I felt it. I knew it.
When Joaquin Arias fielded the grounder to third off the bat of Bay Area-native Jason Castro with two outs in the ninth, I held my breath. Arias moved back on the ball and to his right, throwing off his back foot. The throw seemed to take forever to land in Brandon Beltâs glove at first. But land there, it did.
And then the tears. The sobbing, uncontrollable tears. Not my daughterâs, but mine.
âWhy are you crying, Mommy?â
âMatt Cain threw a perfect game,â I said. âDo you know how hard that is to do? Do you know how rare it is?â
âI want to be perfect on Friday,â she said.
Donât we all.
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