In the first 135 years of Major League Baseball history, there were 20 perfect games.
In 2012, we’ve already seen 10 percent of that total reached. Matt Cain threw the second perfect game this season, absolutely mowing down the Houston Astros to match White Sox pitcher Phil Humber’s effort against the Mariners from earlier this year.
The sudden upsurge in perfect games is surely not a coincidence. Prior to the season, the video game MLB 2K12 presented a commercial with Kate Upton as the gatekeeper to the fictional “Perfect Game Club.” In the commercial Upton asks “Can you get inside? I hope so.”
Even a monk (or Lolo Jones) could figure out the entendre action going on in that phrase. And if you were Humber or Cain, wouldn’t that thought be the perfect motivation for completing such a herculean task? (Yeah, I know they’re married, but Perfect Game Club members get privileges the rest of us don’t. Just ask Charlie Robertson.)
I had the good fortune of catching the final four innings of this one, and Cain certainly has his defense to thank for the result — which was the first thing he did in his postgame interview. Melky Cabrera snagged a ball at the wall in the sixth, and Gregor Blanco made one of the five best catches I have ever seen when he came out of nowhere to rob Jordan Schaefer of what probably would have been a triple with a diving grab at the warning track. Seriously, the grab ranks up there with the time Bo Jackson ran up the side of the wall, especially given the high pressure of the situation.
The Giants offense also gets an assist. The 10-0 lead allowed Bruce Bochy to make defensive substitutions, which proved crucial for the final out of the game as Joaquin Arias made a pick and throw from third base that no one as fat as Pablo Sandoval could ever dream of accomplishing.
But those exceptional defensive plays take nothing away from Cain, whose 14 strikeouts tied the perfect game record set by Sandy Koufax.
Cain’s perfect game is the fourth no-hitter of 2012 and the fifth perfect game since 2009. If one wants to know the definitive sign of the post-steroid era, surely that last sentence is it.