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. Never 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.