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June 14, 2012

What You Need to Know

Thursday, June 14

by Daniel Rathman

The Wednesday Takeaway
One of the most storied franchises in baseball history, the Giants, have had their share of outstanding pitchers since the team was established in 1883. From Christy Mathewson to Juan Marichal to Tim Lincecum, there have been Cy Young awards, World Series gems, and no-hitters. But—thanks in part to Juan Uribe’s untimely fielding error in Jonathan Sanchez’s 2009 no-no—in more than 128 years of play, no Giant had ever thrown a perfect game.

Matt Cain changed all of that on Wednesday night, 107 years to the day of Mathewson’s no-hitter on June 13, 1905. He faced 27 Astros and sent all of them back to the dugout, 14 of them on strikeouts, half of which were the result of batters frozen by fastballs. Perhaps most impressive: not a single Houston hitter was able to work a 2-0 count.

Despite being overshadowed by more vocal members of the club, or more visible members of the rotation—first Jason Schmidt, then Lincecum—Cain has been San Francisco’s most reliable starter since his debut in 2005. That consistency drove the team’s decision to sign him to a $127.5 million extension this past offseason, and the 27-year-old has rewarded the Giants with his best season to date.

Cain’s 82-to-16 K/BB entering last night’s game was by far the best of his career, and he improved it considerably by tying Sandy Koufax’s record for the most strikeouts ever recorded in a perfect game. Despite relying on fly-ball contact, he remains incredibly stingy when it comes to serving up gopher balls, and—with nine more homer-less innings on Wednesday—has allowed just one in his last 37 2/3 inning spanning five starts.

As is the case with virtually any no-hitter or perfect game, Cain could not have done it alone. Almost always, there is a defensive play that becomes known as “the catch,” and though Cain left only 13 outs for his fielders to record, two of them were notable. Right fielder Gregor Blanco provided this incredible grab in the top of the seventh. Third baseman Joaquin Arias, who moved over from shortstop as a defensive replacement for Pablo Sandoval in the seventh, was Cain’s Dewayne Wise, making a fine play on Jason Castro’s grounder for the 27th out.

Thus, the longest-tenured Giant officially entered the franchise’s record books and established himself as the 2012 team’s undisputed ace. His 216th major-league start was the best performance ever delivered by someone wearing a Giants uniform, standing above all those of Mathewson, Marichal and Lincecum, and the thousands of others that came before it.  

What to Watch for on Thursday

  • The Cubs love mid-week day games, but so does today’s (2:20 p.m. ET) Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander, who is 43-16 with a 2.99 ERA in 76 career matinee starts. During his remarkable 2011 campaign, Verlander never went more than two starts without recording a win, but he has now gone winless in four starts since nearly no-hitting the Pirates on May 18. The Tigers are just 7-6 with their ace on the mound this year, after going 25-9 in Verlander’s starts last year.
  • Erik Bedard returns to the place where his roller-coaster career began, making his second appearance at Camden Yards since he was traded to the Mariners and his first as a member of the Pirates. He’ll be on the mound tonight (7:05 p.m. ET) looking to help Pittsburgh avoid its first sweep since April 10-12 at the hands of the Dodgers. The Orioles, who have won four in a row, will look to deliver the brooms behind Tommy Hunter.
  • Daniel Hudson was thumped by the Athletics on Friday, leaving after just 1 2/3 innings with eight hits and six runs on his line score. In order to bounce back, Hudson will need to slow a considerably more potent offense in Arlington tonight (8:05 p.m. ET), where the Rangers will counter with their own scuffling right-hander, Scott Feldman. Stack your fantasy lineup with Diamondbacks and Rangers hitters for this one.

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Daniel's other articles. You can contact Daniel by clicking here

Related Content:  Giants,  Matt Cain,  Perfect Game

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