Five moments from Matt Cain's perfect game you might have forgotten
The perfect night
No-hitters are as unpredictable as it gets, as the Giants have learned with post-peak Tim Lincecum, and all the nights when a dominant Madison Bumgarner has come up short. But Matt Cain just seemed like he was due for a historic night. Prior to June 13, 2012, he had taken five no-hitters into the seventh inning and one perfect game into the sixth. After years of flirtation, he finally closed it out that summer. So many of the moments from the perfect game are memorable, but as we prepare for Cain’s final big league start, here are five parts of that night that you might have forgotten …
You think of a perfect game and you think of intensity, and a pitcher who was locked in mentally that entire day. As for Cain, well, his day started with golf. There was a long drive exhibition on the field in the afternoon and Cain stepped up to the plate a few hours before first pitch and took some swings. He drove one about 300 yards into McCovey Cove, a sign of things to come.
Everyone remembers Gregor Blanco saving the perfect game with a diving catch at the track in the seventh. What you might not remember is that the most stunned person in the ballpark was Matt Cain. He threw his hands up in disbelief and then tipped his cap to Blanco. When he hugged the outfielder after the inning, he offered to buy Blanco a new car or a house, and he asked him, “Why were you playing right there?” Blanco said the coaching staff told him to play closer to the gap for Jordan Schafer. The rest of the play? “I guess I used my legs to catch that ball,” he said, smiling.
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.
Bochy spent the middle innings bolstering Cain’s effort, with Emmanuel Burriss and a pre-Gold Glove Brandon Crawford entering as defensive replacements, and Joaquin Arias moving over and replacing Pablo Sandoval at third. As Cain’s pitch count got up, Bochy also ordered right-hander Shane Loux to secretly warm up in the batting cage behind the dugout. Bochy was ready to have Cain throw 130-plus pitches (he needed 125) but wanted to be prepared in case the Astros got a hit. But he also didn’t want Cain to know someone was warming up. Loux secretly played catch while sneaking peeks at a TV. When Cain got his 26th out, he had seen enough. “I just threw my glove down and went out to the dugout,” Loux said. Moments later, Loux rushed the field with the rest of Cain’s teammates.
Moment of Reflection
After a celebration on the field, another one in the clubhouse, and a long press conference, Cain and his wife, Chelsea, returned to the field. He walked to the mound after the park’s lights had turned off and looked around before taking pictures with the grounds crew. “I think I had to do that,” Cain said the next day. “I had to come back out there and soak it up and take a moment for Chelsea and I to figure out what happened.” After a sleepless night, Cain was back at the park early the next morning. He made his regularly scheduled 9:30 a.m. session in the weight room and then played catch with Madison Bumgarner at 10 a.m.