Matt Cain’s perfect game not only established him as the Giants’ ace, but also gave him the opportunity to show all the baseball world, and beyond, how good he really is.
Cain has been an outstanding pitcher for some time, but he’s been overshadowed by Tim Lincecum, the two-time NL Cy Young Award winner. This year, though, Lincecum has struggled big time, and Cain has stepped up.
Cain’s efforts in the past have not been fully appreciated, either, because his conspicuous lack of run support has meant that his win-loss record didn’t come close to reflecting his excellence.
But now, the Giants hitters are helping him; they scored 10 runs to back up his perfect game.
The first sign that this might be Cain’s year came in the Giants home opener against the Pittsburgh Pirates when he had a perfect game going for 5²⁄³ innings, before the opposing pitcher singled, the only hit he yielded.
Wednesday night, he was even better. The Giants needed only one extraordinary play, a diving catch by right fielder Gregor Blanco. Otherwise, Cain was as dominating as a pitcher can be, striking out 14 and not walking a batter.
For some time, I’ve been saying that Lincecum might have better seasons, but Cain would have the better career because he has such a smooth, almost effortless motion that promises longevity. Now, it seems he may soon match Lincecum’s brilliant seasons, as well.
From the start, it seemed that Cain would be a star pitcher for the Giants. He’s not only gifted physically but he has a great temperament, a real battler who listens when he’s given advice by those who have been around longer than he has.
He also takes full responsibility. There have been many times when he could have blamed teammates for not giving him run support, but he never has. He’s had nothing but praise for his teammates, and that attitude has made him very popular in the clubhouse.
He’s also remarkably well-spoken for a young man with no more than a high school diploma. Four years ago, just before the start of the season that marked their 50th anniversary in San Francisco, the Giants held a media lunch at the Double Play bar and restaurant that was catty-corner from the long-gone Seals Stadium, the Giants’ home for their first two years in San Francisco. At the lunch were greats from the past, Willie McCovey and Orlando Cepeda, and the two young pitchers who were the hope for the future, Cain and Lincecum.
Cain praised the great players from the past and said, “We hope that, in the years to come, we can be part of this great tradition and have some of the same success.”
Since then, the Giants have won a World Series, which the Giants of the ’60s could not do, even with Hall of Famers
McCovey, Cepeda, Willie Mays, Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry.
And now, Cain has thrown a perfect game which Christy Mathewson, Carl Hubbell and Marichal never did.
That’s just the beginning. Matt Cain is still improving, but he already has the ability and temperament to be right there with those greats of the past — and we get to see it.
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.