Cain's Perfecto

by Paul Watsky

June 13, 2012, a Wednesday night against
the Astros, we're down for one of Matt's trade-

mark gems, especially Houston being nearly
impotent on the road—not that we're entitled

to point fingers. But we bust loose early:
10 runs, 13 hits the first five innings

to cushion this kid of 27 who's been a Giant
since '05, his rookie season, making him

our senior player—bright, farmboy strong,
stoic while we saddle him with brutal

low-score losses—1-0, 2-1—and
mediocre W/L numbers—

69-73 through '11—this great
right-hander mostly a nobody outside SF

and Germantown, TN. The competition iced,
your white-bread hurler stands down

from Hulk mode. Adrenaline subsides
during half hours on the bench; focus

ebbs. Pretty soon the erstwhile patsies make
some noise themselves and things get all

messy. Cain just keeps feeding
Houston his Special Ks, 13 up through

inning 7, 103 pitches overall, the first sign
he may be tired coming at #91,

a two-two count on Jordan Schafer,
their leadoff man, who during the fourth milked

ten throws out of Matt before he whiffed. Now
he squares one up toward Triples Alley, deep

right-centerfield, which nobody covers
typically, and the putz has himself at least a double—except

Blanco's abnormally pulled way over and running
maniacally from right gloves that meteor barely

in his webbing, goes airborne, belly flops onto
the warning track, his upturned mitt sequestering

the ball. Cain, usually Guernsey-stolid, shoots
his arms skyward, ruminates momentarily, tips

his cap to Gregor, and Ks the next pair,
so far 2/3 of all the Astros aside from

the second frame, where their 4-hole
J.D. Martinez flies to center and Chris

Johnson grounds out 6·3. But
that final batter in the 7th, Jed Lowrie,

who's already hit a hard one to Cabrera,
left, works his count full, which means

an ump's blown call can terminate the masterpiece.
Here Cain makes the inning's other

big mistake, pitch #103,
at the strike zone's upper limit,

probably ball four. Lowrie swings.
Misses. 7th inning stretch. By now Cain,

like a python strangling peccaries, has dealt
a full game's worth of pain, and only three

plays, all outfield, have been challenges,
but how much big snake mojo's left

to zap the center of their lineup in the 8th?
Martinez, slumping, consumes a single pitch—

5·3. Brett Wallace, who arrived
in town hitting a gaudy .385,

doubtlessly bored by fanning (full count
in the second, 0-2 in the fifth), looks, and

the gorgon-hurl turns him to stone.
When Chris Johnson, .284, amasses

his third straight infield grounder, Cain's
dealt 114 blows, with Houston's weakest

hitters due up in the 9th. Closing them out
should be academic, if anything's academic

about a perfecto. This time it nearly is—
so long as you believe 42,000+ standing

straight through and screaming soon as Matt
starts his windup represents routine

enthusiasm: foul-out to left, popup
in the same sector, and finally, at number

125, a tricky hop from pinch
hitter Jason Castro, .261, to Juan

Arias, brought in late for defense, near
the line at third, and then his interminable pin-

point relay.

before in franchise history, going back
130 years to 1882. Never by

Mathewson. Never by Hubble. Nor
by Marichal. How great is that? Friend,

everything's arguable about the sport called
since around 1870 America's

Pastime, arguable and subject
to rationalizing bullshit. Next day

an online article rank-orders each
of the 22 big league perfect games,

attaches names: Lee Richmond, Worcester
Ruby Legs, who threw the first one,

June 12, 1880; within a week comes
the second, by Monte Ward, Providence

Grays; then a 24-year gap until
Cy Young, Boston Americans; a fourth,

from Addie Joss, 10/2/1908,
of the Cleveland Naps; and that's it

for the dead-ball era; Charlie Robertson,
April 30, 1922, Chicago White

Sox, disrupts a stretch of almost five imperfect
decades until, drama in spades: Don

Larson, New York Yankees, Game 5
the 1956 World Series against

those redoubtable, loathsome Brooklyn
Dodgers. Comparatively speaking, modern

history's studded with perfectos and though Cain
has himself a dandy, club vs. club it's

laughable measured against Sandy Koufax,
LAD, throttling the Cubs one-zip

9/9/1965, only two men on base
the whole afternoon, both off snakebit Bob

Hendley, whose sole run allowed, unearned, derives
from a leadoff walk in the 5th and catcher's

throwing error while Lou Johnson was stealing
third. Well, Hendley didn't lose or Koufax

win all by themselves. Team-sport perfection
mobilizes many hands, strides on numerous

legs, resides as thought in the mind of God, as
a diamond in the dreams of multitudes.