Giants, Righetti know what perfection means to Cain


Giants, Righetti know what perfection means to Cain

SAN FRANCISCO Dave Righetti is a pitching coach. He teaches his starters and relievers how to harness their stuff.

He knows something about the stuff inside, too. And this is his window into Matt Cain:

You know you can count on him, Righetti said. In this game, thats what were all about.

Two years ago, when Jonathan Sanchez became the first Giant in 33 years to throw a no-hitter, Righetti found a quiet moment in the coaches locker room and let slip a few tears. Righetti was a sometimes-erratic left-hander during his career. Hed thrown a no-hitter. He knew what it meant.

The emotions were so similar for Matt Cain on Wednesday, and yet, so different. This wasnt just a no-hitter he threw in the Giants 10-0 victory over the Houston Astros. This was perfection. This was immortality.

Nobody identifies with that. You simply stand in awe of it.

Now theyre all in the group, but this is a different group, Righetti said. A perfect game, thats a big deal man.

Its a big deal no matter how diluted the accomplishment has become in recent years. There have been 22 perfect games in baseball history. Exactly two featured as many as 14 strikeouts. And youll hear it so often: Sandy Koufaxs start against the Cubs, on Sept. 9, 1965 was, in the eyes of many, the greatest nine innings ever pitched.

Cain matched it. With a snap-back fastball and an unchanging demeanor and a disappearing changeup and a perfect cadence with catcher Buster Posey, Cain matched it.

A career 76-75 pitcher due so much more, Cain received his gift on a midweek night game in June against a Houston Astros lineup that does not have sharp teeth but is perfectly capable of breaking the skin. It came on his sixth attempt at taking a no-hitter as deep as the seventh inning. It came on the 107th anniversary of a Christy Mathewson no-hitter for the New York Giants.

Nobody not Mathewson, not Carl Hubbell, not Juan Marichal or Gaylord Perry or Tim Lincecum had thrown a perfect game in a Giants uniform.

Cain, so admired by his teammates, stands alone. And yet he stands together.

It definitely wasnt just me, said Cain, flanked by Posey and right fielder Gregor Blanco, who could have worn a cape and cowl when he saved perfection with his improbable catch in the seventh inning. Running down balls, hitting home runs, making plays, it was an all-around effort tonight.

Everybody did a lot of work and it turned out it turned out perfect.

Even with Cain providing 14 of the 27 outs on his own, he needed Blanco to make his full-extension catch on Jordan Schafer -- a shockingly sensational play that had as much to do with positioning as athleticism. He needed a breath from the gods to knock down Chris Snyders drive in the sixth, which Melky Cabrera caught with a hop at the wall. He needed third baseman Joaquin Arias to make the final play, throwing flat-footed with his weight headed in the wrong direction.

He needed to keep his composure. He needed eight other men to keep theirs, too.

First baseman Brandon Belt: I was going to throw up. I said that to everybody, but I really was. I was about to throw up in the ninth inning.

Manager Bruce Bochy: Just like you, Im a fan. I dont change anything. I stayed in my same place. Im living on every pitch, too, and pulling for him.

Posey: I was as nervous as Ive ever been on a baseball field. Im not gonna lie. Its a different kind of nervousness than the playoffs or the World Series.

Cain: You know what? Honestly I was thinking about it and it felt like the World Series but it also felt a little louder, a little crazier. Every strike, they were going nuts for. It was really amazing. Ive never had that much excitement in every pitch, every strike, every swing.

Nobody could afford to make a mistake. Thats the definition of perfection, isnt it?

Even the golf ball that Cain hit three hours prior to the first pitch, as part of a promotional tie-in with the U.S. Open, was perfectly struck. A little power fade, right into McCovey Cove. For once, a good shot into the drink.

Cain, eager to grip and rip the driver just once, peeked over at Brian Sabean. The GM nodded that he could take a swing. But Sabean turned his head. He couldnt stand to watch.

Makes you wonder if Sabean was able to watch in the ninth inning.

Cain had no option to close his eyes as his car crested the tracks. He was immersed in a conductive roar, standing on his little bump, and those close shaves in the past even the one-hitter that was as fresh as the home opener did not give him anything to draw upon.

Uhh, I mean kinda, Cain said. But not really.

Ive had some opportunities in the past. but theres really nothing like it. You get deep into the game like that, and really even (Blancos) defining play he makes it in the beginning of the seventh inning and Ive still got to get two more outs and the place is going crazy, and I was literally having to recheck myself just to be able to see the signs Buster was putting down because there was so much adrenaline, so much stuff going on. I was in a way probably overthrowing some changeups. I was throwing harder than I wanted to, but it worked out.

It was an enormous run-on sentence. Somehow, Cain punctuated it. The feat required 125 pitches, the most ever thrown in a perfect game. His hardest fastball was 94 mph, and he threw two of them. One was on his 101st pitch of the night.

The other was his last.

Cain saved his best for when he needed it. Thats the difference between the wizened, 27-year-old Cain and the bull in a china closet, as Righetti described him, when he broke into the big leagues.

Cains 14 strikeouts were a career high. His previous high was 12, set as a 21-year-old in 2006.

I mean, back then, that was, Im gonna try to throw it as hard as possible and hope nobody hits it, Cain said. Now, I feel at times, well, Ive tried to do that. I want to be able to throw the ball as hard as I can. But I think Im more relaxed and have more of an idea for my mechanics and what my body is doing. Im able to control myself a little more than where I was when I was 21. Its just maturing.

But, Righetti said, The determination is still the same. The same guy still sits there. You see him on game day, just so calm. Hes that way. He always has been.

And yet also so competitive. When Cain batted in the eighth inning, his mind electrified with thoughts, he didnt lay the bat on his shoulder as any sane pitcher would, and hope for a moments peace on the bench to collect his thoughts. He took a rip at the first pitch.

I dont know, said Cain, unblinking. Im looking to try to get a hit there. Its something I want to do.

Righetti understood why.

Didnt he go up there his last time and swing out of his ass? Righetti said. Hed already got one (hit), and Bumgarner went deep the night before. And Bum struck out 12, so Cain had to get more than that. Thats what peer pressure does. It does wonderful things.

All of the wonder reached its crescendo after 1 a.m. on the East Coast. Its the second perfecto of the season, after Philip Humber of the White Sox. Maybe Cains achievement wont resonate on a national level the way it otherwise might.

Will Cain get the recognition he deserves? In a way, Righetti said, he already has.

You shouldve seen it at the All-Star Game last year, Righetti said. All the other pitchers want to talk to him, which is the fun part. You see the respect he gets from those guys.

Righetti thought back to that home opener, and that lone hit by Pirates pitcher James McDonald.

Whatd he say? He felt bad about it. Didnt he say that? Now how do you say that? Some guys are, Im glad I did it.

So in a sense, hes getting plenty of recognition in our game.

Players know good stuff when they see it.

Three Giants among 2016 Gold Glove finalists

Three Giants among 2016 Gold Glove finalists

On Thursday, Rawlings announced the list of Gold Glove finalists.

Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford and Joe Panik are in the running at their respective positions.

NL catchers: Posey, Yadier Molina, Jonathan Lucroy.

NL shortstops: Crawford, Addison Russell, Freddy Galvis.

NL second basemen: Panik, Jean Segura, D.J. LeMahieu. 

Brandon Belt, who was a finalist last season, did not make the cut.

Crawford won his first Gold Glove last year, while Posey and Panik have never won the award.

The winners are expected to be announced shortly after the World Series ends.

Cubs come alive behind Schwarber, Arrieta; World Series tied 1-1


Cubs come alive behind Schwarber, Arrieta; World Series tied 1-1


CLEVELAND -- Jake Arrieta made a teasing run at history, Kyle Schwarber drove in two runs and the Chicago Cubs brushed off a shutout to even the World Series with their first Fall Classic win in 71 years, 5-1 over the Cleveland Indians in Game 2 on Wednesday night.

Arrieta carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning, briefly invoking Don Larsen's name, before the Indians touched him for two hits and a run. However, the right-hander helped give Chicago just what it needed - a split at Progressive Field - before the Cubbies return to their Wrigley Field den for the next three games starting Friday night.

The Cubs hadn't won in the Series since beating Detroit 8-7 in 1945 to force Game 7.

The free-swinging Schwarber, who made it back for Chicago's long-awaited Series return after missing most of the season with an injured left knee, hit an RBI single in the third off Cleveland's Trevor Bauer and had another in the Cubs' three-run fifth - highlighted by Ben Zobrist's run-scoring triple.

Even the presence of star LeBron James and the NBA champion Cavaliers, sporting their new rings, couldn't stop the Indians from losing for the first time in six home games this postseason.

And Cleveland manager Terry Francona's magical touch in October finally fizzled as he dropped to 9-1 in Series games.

With rain in the forecast, Major League Baseball moved the first pitch up an hour in hopes of avoiding delays or a postponement.

It turned out to be a good call as the game went on without a hitch and ended after more than four hours as light rain was beginning to fall.

Arrieta and the Cubs provided the only storm.

The bearded 30-year-old coasted through five innings without allowing a hit, the first pitcher to get that deep in a Series game with a no-hitter since David Cone of the New York Yankees in 1998.

For a brief period, Arrieta looked as if he might challenge Larsen's gem - a perfect game - in 1956 before Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, a die-hard Cubs fan as a kid, doubled with one out in the sixth.

Before that, Cleveland hitters had a couple good swings, and drew three walks, but couldn't mount a real threat. Arrieta has two career no-hitters, in fact, including the only one in the majors this year.

Cubs lefty Mike Montgomery replaced Arrieta and worked two scoreless innings before Aroldis Chapman came in and unleashed his 103 mph heat while getting the last four outs.

The teams will have an off day before the series resumes with Game 3 at Wrigley, which will host its first Series game since Oct. 6, 1945, when tavern owner Billy Sianis was asked to leave with his pet goat, Murphy, and a curse was born.

Josh Tomlin will start for the Indians, who will lose the designated hitter in the NL ballpark, against Kyle Hendricks.

Schwarber might also wind up on the bench after two days as the DH.

With a gametime temperature of 43, the weather was more fitting for the Browns and Bears to bang heads than the boys of summer.

The Cubs were the ones who came up thumping after being blanked 6-0 in Game 1 by Corey Kluber and Cleveland's shut-down bullpen.

Zobrist's one-out triple triggered the fifth as the Cubs opened a 5-0 lead, not that Arrieta needed it.

After Anthony Rizzo walked following a 10-pitch at-bat, Zobrist laced a ball off Zach McAllister that was going to be a double until right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall slipped and fell. Rizzo was waved around and Zobrist hustled into third.

Schwarber followed with his second RBI and reliever Bryan Shawn later walked No. 9 hitter Addison Russell with the bases loaded.

Unlike his start in Toronto on Oct. 17, when his stitched cut opened up and Bauer was forced to make a bloody departure in the first inning, his finger held up fine.

The Cubs, though, put a few nicks in him in 3 2/3 innings.

The drone accident has brought attention to the quirky Bauer, and one Chicago fan tried to rattle the right-hander by sending a smaller version of the remote-controlled, flying object that cut him.

Bauer posted a photo of it on Twitter, saying "I see the (at)Cubs fans love me! How nice of them to send me a gift!"

The Cubs, who were off balance from the start against Kluber, scored their first run in a Series game since `45 in the first on Rizzo's RBI double.

Bauer needed 51 pitches to get through two innings, and he was one strike from getting out of the third unscathed when Chicago turned a walk and to singles into a 2-0 lead.

Cubs: Hendricks is coming off his brilliant performance in Game 5 of the NLCS when he pitched two-hit ball for seven innings as the Cubs clinched their first pennant in 71 years. The right-hander went 16-8 during the regular season with a league-leading 2.13 ERA.

Indians: It will be an emotional night for Tomlin, who will pitch on 12 day's rest with his ailing father, Jerry, in attendance. The elder Tomlin became stricken with a spinal condition in August, when Tomlin was struggling on the mound. The right-hander more than recovered and rescued Cleveland's rotation in the postseason, winning both starts.