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Matt Cain Perfect Game: Best pitching performance ever? [VIDEO]

Scott Levin's picture

What Matt Cain accomplished Wednesday night puts him in elite company. Just where does the effort rank among the all-time great pitching performances?

Cain became the 22nd pitcher in MLB history to throw a perfect game, blanking the Houston Astros in the Giants 10-0 win. The amazing effort was the first perfect game in Giants franchise history, which dates all the way back to 1883.

The Giants stoic right-hander delivered 14 strikeouts in facing the minimum 27 hitters. The 14 punchouts tied Cain with Dodgers legend Sandy Koufax for most strikeouts in a perfect game.

And that stat alone begs the question. Did fans who watched Cain's outing Wednesday witness the greatest pitching performance in MLB history?

Cain, the longest-tenured Giant affectionately known to fans as "Horse" and "Shotgun", had every pitch in his arsenal working. With his typical pinpoint command, Cain picked apart Astros hitter with his low 90s fastball, disappearing changeup and nasty breaking pitches. Cain painted the corners, mixed speeds and kept Houston off balance all night. Rarely was a ball struck hard, and when it was, Cain's defense rose the occasion.

In the 6th inning, left fielder Melky Cabrera leaped at the wall to nab a deep flyball by Chris Snyder. And right fielder Gregor Blanco stole the show in the 7th, making an all-out dive in the gap to rob Jordan Schafer of extra bases.

With that trouble behind him, the calm Cain returned to the mound, fully prepared to finish perfection. With three one-hitters under his belt, Cain knows what it's like to get close and fall short.

Showing the same emotionless demeanor he displayed in 2010, when he pitched 21.1 scoreless playoff innings to secure a World Series for the Giants, Cain commanded the mound in the final two innings. With the home crowd going nuts with every pitch, Cain delivered the final pitches, getting pinch-hitter Jason Castro to ground out to third base to end the game and start the celebration.

When things had calmed down, fans and baseball historians alike could look at the numbers and wonder. In addition to Koufax's 1965 perfect game, Kerry Wood's one-hit, 20-strikeout game in 1998 is certainly in the discussion for most dominating pitching performance. Roger Clemens struck out 20 hitters in a game on two occasions, certainly putting his name in the ring.

Best ever or simply perfect, Cain will certainly revel in the accomplishment. The beloved pitcher likely can't do anything wrong in the eyes of Giants fans, who have watched him help deliver the first World Series in San Francisco history and now the first perfect game in franchise history.

And with the ink dry on his nine-figure contract extension, Cain will be delivering memories in San Francisco for years to come. But it'll be hard to top perfection.

Image Source: Twitter (@SFGiants)
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