Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Giants' Cain hands Astros historic blank

He mows down 14 for season's fifth no-hitter

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Matt Cain tossed and turned and managed all of about four hours of sleep following his history-making gem for the Giants.

Perfectly understandable.

Cain's perfect game will be remembered among the most masterful pitching performances in regular-season baseball history, if not ever.

San Francisco's ace right-hander dominated the Houston Astros every which way Wednesday night in a 10-0 win for the 22nd perfect game ever and the fifth no-hitter already this year.

He struck out a career-best 14 batters, making up more than half his 27 straight outs and tying Sandy Koufax for most Ks in a perfecto. Cain (8-2) threw 19 first-pitch strikes and never faced a 2-0 count in winning his career-high seventh straight start.

"I'm still pumped," said Cain, who was back on the field playing catch with fellow starter Madison Bumgarner by 10:15 a.m. Thursday after a workout. "I haven't really had a ton of time to sit down and look over stuff, see how it all happened. I don't know that it has hit me yet, maybe when I can sit down and watch the highlights, go over the game."

Add in a pair of improbable catches by Melky Cabrera and Gregor Blanco to preserve the feat, and Cain wound up with the first perfect game in the franchise's storied 130-year history and its 14th no-hitter. It was the third this month, as Cain joined the Mets' Johan Santana and a combined no-no by Seattle's staff.

He threw 125 pitches -- most ever in a perfect game -- and 86 of those for strikes. Seven of his strikeouts were called. He didn't shake off catcher Buster Posey even once. They were in sync on this memorable evening.

"It's something I always wanted to do since I was little, but it's kind of a blur when it actually happens," Cain said Thursday, when the Giants lost their series finale to Houston 6-3.

Cain followed up Bumgarner's 12-strikeout night Tuesday, and they became the first Giants pitchers to record consecutive double-digit strikeout games since Vida Blue and John Montefusco in May 1978.

"Things like this bring a team together even more," San Francisco skipper Bruce Bochy said. "That's the first one I've seen. It was an incredible night. Matt was going about it like a normal game. That last at-bat, he sprinted to first base and I yelled, 'Hey, take it easy.' But he always plays the game hard."

Team president and CEO Larry Baer and the rest of the brass must have been pinching themselves in delight that they decided to reward the two-time all-star with a $127.5-million, six-year contract -- the richest for a right-hander -- days before the season began.

The 27-year-old Cain showed glimpses of his potential for perfection in consecutive starts in mid-April. There was a one-hitter against Pittsburgh in the home opener, then nine shutout innings against Cliff Lee and the Phillies in a 1-0, 11-inning Giants victory his next time out -- a memorable game in which the aces combined to throw 19 scoreless innings.

Yet even Giants Hall of Famers Carl Hubbell, Christy Mathewson, Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry hadn't accomplished what Cain did Wednesday.

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.

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.

San Francisco pitching coach Dave Righetti was among the first to embrace Cain afterward. Righetti is the only other member of the team with a no-hitter after he stymied the rival Red Sox in a no-no for the New York Yankees on July 4, 1983.

Highlights of Cain's latest brilliant outing were shown before Thursday's series finale with Houston, and the pitcher received another warm ovation from his supporters at AT&T Park.

Cain's cap, cleats, dirt from the mound, a ball and his uniform are being sent to Cooperstown. The umpires presented the pitcher with a game ball signed by all four of them. The Giants also replaced the pitching rubber and home plate and will keep those as mementos in San Francisco.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 15, 2012 C8

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