Cain tosses MLB's 22nd Perfect Game


Cain tosses MLB's 22nd Perfect Game


SAN FRANCISCO The Giants announced a sellout crowd of 42,298. Many, many more will claim they were there on this cool Wednesday night.

Matt Cain, already an All-Star, a beloved Giant and a decorated postseason hero, grooved his name ever deeper into franchise lore. The stoic rock of the staff became the first Giant in the franchises 129-year history to throw a perfect game.

Houston Astros pinch hitter Jason Castro hit a ground ball to third base, Joaquin Arias nearly stumbled as he heaved a throw across the diamond and Brandon Belt exploded off first base as Cain and the Giants became immortal in a 10-0 victory at AT&T Park.

Cain, normally such a square-jawed gunslinger on the mound, punched the air, catcher Buster Posey leapt into his arms and Belt had the presence of mind to tuck the baseball in his back pocket before joining the emotional pile in front of the mound.

Gregor Blanco made the greatest of several defensive plays, nearly sporting a cape as he made a full-extension dive in deep right-center field to preserve perfection in the eighth.

The historic start came three hours after Cain swung a golf club in part of a pregame promotion at AT&T Park. The accomplished golfer, who plays in the annual AT&T Pro-Am at Pebble Beach, looked into the stands to get permission from GM Brian Sabean before gripping a Taylor Made driver and sending a power fade into McCovey Cove.

Sabean turned his head and didnt watch, lest the right-hander wrench his back. He didnt.
Starting pitching report

Cains fastball was pinpoint, his curveball tumbled and his changeup, an ever-important pitch in his arsenal, simply disappeared.

He struck out 14, besting his previous career high of 12 set as a 21-year-old fireballer in 2006.

He pitched the 14th no-hitter in Giants history and the 22nd perfect game in major league history.

Bullpen report
Nobody unbuttoned a jacket.

At the plate

Cain found a way to overshadow one of the Giants best offensive games at AT&T Park in years. Melky Cabrera hit a two-run home run in the first inning, Brandon Belt hit a two-run shot in the second and Gregor Blanco lifted one into the arcade after Cain led off the fifth with a broken-bat single.

The Giants entered this series with six home runs in 32 home games. Theyve hit five in two games against the Astros staff. Houstons J.A. Happ became the first pitcher to serve up multiple home runs in a game at AT&T Park since San Diegos Mat Latos did it Sept. 14 of last season. (Not to make you weep, but Carlos Beltran hit both of em.)

The Giants had three homers with runners on base. They entered this series with just one of those at home all year.

Belts homer came one day after he hit his first of the season. Both of them have come against left-handed pitchers.

Belt also hit an RBI single and every Giants starter but Angel Pagan got a hit.

In field

There was no shortage of circled plays in the scorebook. It took a village of perfection behind Cain, beginning with Melky Cabreras leaping grab at the warning track in the sixth inning when Chris Snyders well struck drive somehow stayed in the ballpark.

Blanco made the grab of the year, racing back and toward center field, then laying out to catch Jordan Schafers drive to start the seventh inning. The sellout crowd, fully aware and alive, met the moment with the loudest ovation this ballpark has seen since the World Series.

It didnt end there. Giants manager Bruce Bochy took out Pablo Sandoval to start the seventh inning, inserting Brandon Crawford at shortstop and moving Joaquin Arias to third base. Both infielders made contributions in the eighth; Arias made a nice play on J.D. Martinezs slow roller, then Crawford, who has had his hiccups this season, backed up and waited for the right hop on Chris Johnsons grounder up the middle. Crawford made a clean pickup, exchange and throw to end the inning and get Cain within three outs of perfection.

Arias steadied his legs just in time to get his final throw across the field in time for the game's final out.

Well, 42,298 folks have ticket stubs to prove it.

Up next
The Giants finish their series with Houston on Thrusday. Itll be left-hander Barry Zito vs. left-hander Wandy Rodriguez.

Otani to MLB after 2017 season? 'We discussed the possibility'

Otani to MLB after 2017 season? 'We discussed the possibility'

TOKYO -- Japanese pitcher Shohei Otani says he could move to the major leagues after the 2017 season.

The 22-year-old right-hander, who has also put up big numbers at the plate, signed a $2.37 million contract for next season with the Nippon Ham Fighters on Monday.

Otani will not become eligible for free agency until after the 2021 season and will need the Fighters' approval to negotiate with a major league club through the posting system before that time.

He says "we discussed the possibility of me going. ... The club will respect my wishes whenever I decide I want to go."

Otani went 10-4 as a pitcher and batted .322 with a career-high 22 home runs this season for the Fighters.

New rules in MLB's collective bargaining agreement make it more difficult for players like Otani to get paid big bucks right away. But there is a definite curiosity about his abilities, even from those who haven't seen him play much.

"I don't know which side you're worried about more: his ability to pitch or hit," former New York Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "Hopefully he stays healthy because he's an addition whatever league he winds up with, whether he stays in Japan or comes to the U.S. he's certainly going to be an exciting player for people to look forward to watching."

Boston Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski was reluctant to talk about Otani because he's under contract in Japan. But he's intrigued about Otani's ability to pitch and hit.

"We have reports on him," Dombrowski said. "Do I think a player could be a two-way player? Yeah, it could happen. It is very difficult? Yes. But I'm not saying that there's not a player out there that can't do that because some of them are rare, rare guys. Babe Ruth could do it. He was pretty good. So it can be done."

Report: Giants 'among teams that have asked' about lefty reliever Howell

Report: Giants 'among teams that have asked' about lefty reliever Howell

The Giants added a huge piece to their bullpen Monday by signing closer Mark Melancon to a four-year deal. While much of the bullpen is complete, San Francisco's front office is reportedly keeping an open mind with a familiar reliever. 

San Francisco has reportedly asked about lefty reliever J.P. Howell, according to ESPN's Buster Olney. Howell, who turns 34 in April, spent the last four seasons as a Giants rival with the Dodgers.

Last season coming out of the Dodgers' bullpen, Howell tossed 50.2 innings pitched and ended with a 1-1 record and 4.09 ERA. The year before, Howell posted a career-low 1.43 ERA. 

In just 13 appearances out of the bullpen -- 10.2 innings pitched -- Howell has struggled in his career at AT&T Park. The lefty has a 6.75 ERA in San Francisco, to go along with an 0-1 record. 

As a whole, the Giants' bullpen finished the 2016 regular season with a 25-24 record. The group's 3.65 ERA ranked ninth in the National League. 

Howell is seeking a one-year deal, according to Olney.