Blackhawks

Did Cain pitch greatest game in baseball history?

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Did Cain pitch greatest game in baseball history?

From Comcast SportsNet
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- For all those Giants masterpieces, from Christy Mathewson to Juan Marichal to Gaylord Perry, this one by Matt Cain topped them all. Cain pitched the franchise's first perfect game and the 22nd in major league history, striking out a career-high 14 and getting help from two spectacular catches to beat the Houston Astros 10-0 on Wednesday night. Cain's 125-pitch gem for San Francisco featured a pair of great plays by his corner outfielders. He got pinch-hitter Jason Castro on a grounder to third for his 27th and final out with the sellout crowd of 42,298 roaring. "This is incredible right now," Cain said. "It was unbelievable. The guys did a great job making it, in a way, kind of relaxing, because they were able to get on the board early." It was the fifth no-hitter in the majors already this season and second perfect game. Another Year of the Pitcher? You bet. In the very ballpark where Barry Bonds made home run history five summers ago, Cain produced the signature moment for pitchers. It was the 14th no-hitter in club history -- Mathewson pitched Nos. 2 and 3 in 1901 and '05, and fellow Hall of Famers Carl Hubbell, Marichal and Perry had one apiece. Left fielder Melky Cabrera chased down Chris Snyder's one-out flyball in the sixth, scurrying back to make a leaping catch at the wall. Cain raised both arms and slapped his glove in delight when Cabrera made the play. Then, right fielder Gregor Blanco ran into deep right-center to make a diving catch on the warning track and rob Jordan Schafer for the first out of the seventh. The 27-year-old pitcher hugged Blanco in the dugout after the inning. "Those were unbelievable catches," Cain said. "I mean that right there, that changes the whole thing." 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. Cain (8-2) accomplished a feat last done in the Bay Area by A's lefty Dallas Braden on Mother's Day 2010. Braden tweeted Wednesday night: "What a beautiful game. Congrats 2 Matt Cain & a historic franchise & city. A special memory ill tell someones kids about! (hash)eraofthepitcher." 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. This year, Johan Santana tossed the New York Mets' first no-hitter on June 1 and six Seattle pitchers shut down the Los Angeles Dodgers last Friday. Jered Weaver had one for the Los Angeles Angels on May 2. The Astros were no-hit for the fifth time and first since Carlos Zambrano did so for the Cubs on Sept. 14, 2008. "Just an incredible night," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "We were all pulling so hard." The Giants made a big commitment to Cain this spring, locking him up for a long haul -- and he showed exactly why general manager Brian Sabean has vowed to keep his talented pitchers. In a week when the city's attention turned to golf and the U.S. Open, Cain delivered his most impressive gem yet in his 216th career start. The 125 pitches were the most ever thrown in a perfect game. The two-time All-Star who had long been the Giants starter who endured a lack of run support already was rewarded with a new 127.5 million, six-year contract in early April before the season started. This certainly meant as much or more to the homegrown pitcher. Cain threw 86 pitches for strikes, faced just four full counts and still clocked 90 mph in the ninth. Cain followed up Madison Bumgarner's 12-strikeout gem in Tuesday night's 6-3 win. "I know when I haven't given up a hit, I'm always conscious of it," Cain said. "Probably the first time through the lineup I felt like I had good stuff. The first time through the lineup I felt like something could happen." Something special, all right. It was the first no-hitter by San Francisco since departed left-hander Jonathan Sanchez did it July 10, 2009, against the Padres at AT&T Park. The Astros were no-hit by the Giants for the second time. Marichal did it on June 15, 1963. Even Cain thought Snyder had enough to clear the fences in the sixth. That's when the Astros realized it might be a long night. "When the ball I hit doesn't go out and the ball that Schafer hits is caught ... I've never seen a ball hit like that into that gap," Snyder said. Blanco said of his catch: "I didn't think I was going to make it, but I did," Ted Barrett became the first umpire to work behind the plate for two perfect games. He also worked David Cone's 1999 perfecto at Yankee Stadium. "He could put the ball anywhere he wanted," Barrett said. "He knew where he wanted to throw it, and he threw it there. Cone had the big, big backdoor breaking ball. It was against the Expos and I don't think they had faced him before. They were a little bit baffled by Cone's stuff." Cain pivoted on the mound to watch third baseman Joaquin Arias make a long throw for the final out, then the celebration began. First baseman Brandon Belt caught the last throw, tucked the ball in his back pocket for safekeeping and rushed to the mound. Catcher Buster Posey ran out to Cain, who raised his arm. His teammates jumped the dugout rail as the final out was made, a moment reminiscent of that improbable World Series championship in 2010 at Texas. "I can't thank Buster enough," Cain said. "I didn't even question once what he was calling." Cain's wife, Chelsea, fought tears when shown in the stands as the celebration began, then made her way to the dugout for a congratulatory hug and kiss. Cain had come close already this season -- not once, but twice. In his second start of the year, in the team's home opener April 13, he one-hit the Pirates in a 5-0 win, then allowed only two hits over nine innings in the Giants' 11-inning, 1-0 win over Cliff Lee and the Phillies. "I've had some opportunities in the past. There's really nothing like it," Cain said. Cabrera, Belt and Blanco each hit two-run homers and the Giants produced an offensive outburst rarely seen at home this season and rarely seen when Cain has pitched. On this night, he threw nine of his initial 11 pitches for strikes, commanding his repertoire with a dazzling fastball. Cain, who hit one drive into McCovey Cove alongside U.S. Open golfer Dustin Johnson before the game to show off one of his other favorite pastimes, sat by himself in the dugout between innings. J.A. Happ (4-7) lost his fourth straight start after giving up eight runs and 11 hits in 3 1-3 innings. NOTES: Blanco called it the best catch of his career. "I still don't know how he caught that ball," Bochy said. ... Cabrera's first-inning homer marked his first clout at home this year. ... Astros bench coach Joe Pettini will join Tony La Russa's NL All-Star coaching staff. ... Of the 22 perfect games, half have come in the last 24 years. Roy Halladay and Dallas Braden each threw one two seasons ago. ... Castro, who grew up near San Francisco and went to Stanford, had caused Cain problems in the past. Castro hit his first major league homer off Cain in 2010.

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' overtime loss to Lightning: Missed opportunities and one too many penalties

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' overtime loss to Lightning: Missed opportunities and one too many penalties

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks’ 3-2 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday night:
 
1. One too many penalties.

The Blackhawks flirted with danger in the first period when they handed the Lightning three straight continuous power plays, a four-minute double minor high-sticking penalty from John Hayden and a Jonathan Toews hooking call that resulted in a 5-on-3 opportunity for Tampa Bay for 43 seconds. 

The penalty kill unit that ranked fourth in the league entering the matchup, however, killed off all three of those penalties against the NHL's top-ranked power play, and did so in commanding fashion.

The Blackhawks went 5-for-5 on the penalty kill in regulation, but couldn't stop the sixth one — a questionable slashing call on Nick Schmaltz —  in overtime when Brayden Point buried the winner on a 4-on-3 opportunity.

It was also interesting that Jon Cooper elected to go with four forwards (Nikita Kucherov, Vladislav Namestnikov, Point and Steven Stamkos) and zero defensemen during that man advantage, putting all of his offensive weapons out on the ice. It's something more teams should do in that situation.

2. Patrick Kane gets going.

After scoring just one goal in his previous 10 games, Kane found the back of the net twice in the opening frame against Tampa Bay and stayed hot against a team he historically plays well against. And he nearly netted a hat trick in overtime but couldn't cash in on a breakaway opportunity.

Kane has 20 points (eight goals, 12 assists) in 14 career regular-season games against the Lightning, and extended his point streak to five games. He has three goals and four assists over that stretch.

We wrote about how important it is for the Blackhawks' superstars to get going again with the offensive contributions mainly coming from role players as of late, and Kane getting into a groove is a perfect step in that direction.

3. How about that goaltending battle?

Corey Crawford and Andrei Vasilevskiy showed us exactly why they belong in the Vezina Trophy discussion, and as of this moment, it's hard not to include both of them as finalists. They put on a goaltending clinic, seemingly topping the other as the game went on.

The two teams combined for 71 scoring chances, and Crawford and Vasilevskiy came up big when their teams need them the most.

Crawford finished with 35 saves on 38 shots (.921 save percentage) in the loss while Vasilevskiy stopped 29 of 31 (.935 save percentage), and improved to 15-2-1 on the season. 

4. Missed opportunities.

You couldn't have asked for a better start for the Blackhawks. They scored the first goal 3:49 into the game and the second on the power play at 15:54, killed off three penalties, including a 5-on-3, had 24 shot attempts (13 on goal) compared to the Lightning's 16 attempts (11 on goal) and led in even-strength scoring chances 9-6.

It was a different story the rest of the way.

The Blackhawks took their foot off the gas pedal a bit and let the Lightning back in the game by getting away from what they do best, and that's control the puck. Obviously, you expected the league's best offense to push back and it's certainly not an easy task to keep them off the scoresheet all together. 

But the Blackhawks had their chances to stay in front or retake the lead and just couldn't bury them. Tampa Bay had 50 shot attempts from the second period on while the Blackhawks had only 32, and finished with 44 scoring chances compared to Chicago's 27.

5. Richard Panik in the doghouse?

Joel Quenneville didn't go to his line blender in this one, but he did shorten some leashes. Panik, most notably, had a season-low 12:28 of ice time in the loss and had 15 shifts, which was second-fewest only to Ryan Hartman (13) on the team.

Panik had a prime chance to break a 2-2 tie in the third period but was denied by Vasilevskiy, who made a remarkable left-pad save. Instead, Panik extended his goal drought to 12 games and didn't get a shift in overtime.

He's certainly better and will get his scoring chances when playing on the top line with Toews and Brandon Saad, but the missed opportunities are magnified in tight losses. It doesn't look like a move down in the lineup is coming given the success of Alex DeBrincat, who gives the Blackhawks an offensive weapon on the third line, but perhaps it should be considered.

Bring your own stuffing: Jazz swat Bulls on Thanksgiving Eve

Bring your own stuffing: Jazz swat Bulls on Thanksgiving Eve

On the second (turkey) leg of a back-to-back, the Bulls didn't bring much energy in a 110-80 loss to the Utah Jazz. 

Instead of diving into the nitty-gritty of the uninspiring effort, though, we decided to just serve you up a Thanksgiving meal of highlights. Here are the top blocks from Wednesday's game: 

5. Derrick Favors is no Rudy Gobert -- that we know -- but imitation is the highest form of flattery. 

4. Are Bobby Portis chase down blocks the new LeBron James chase down blocks? Let's not get carried away... yet. We'll chalk it up to just a real nice hustle play by Bobby. 

3 and 2. Speaking of hustle plays... Jonas Jerebko isn't exactly known as a dominant defender. He sure made it hard for the Bulls on what should of been an easy fast-break bucket in the third quarter, though. First, he silenced Kris Dunn's reverse. Then, he met Lauri Markkanen at the rim and sent the rookie packing. The Baby Bulls 2.0 can blame it on fatigue, but they just handed Jerebko a highlight tape for years to come.   

1. In fairness, Jerian Grant had to get up a shot as the quarter was coming to a close. It is as vicious as it looks, though.