Matt Cain pitched the 22nd perfect game in Major League Baseball history as the San Francisco Giants beat the Houston Astros 10-0.
Two-time All-Star Cain, 27, threw 125 pitches, the most in a perfect game, and tied Sandy Koufax’s 1965 record for the most strikeouts in a perfect game with 14. Cain embraced catcher Buster Posey before being mobbed by teammates after pinch-hitter Jason Castro grounded out to third for the final out of the game.
“I felt a good rhythm in the bullpen and when I got on the mound in between the lines I felt like I knew what I was doing with my fastball,” Cain said in a televised interview as the crowd at AT&T Park in San Francisco gave him a standing ovation. “Usually those are good days when that happens and it obviously worked out right.”
It was the first perfect game and 14th no-hitter in the 129-year history of the franchise. The last Giant to throw a no-hitter was Jonathan Sanchez on July 10, 2009.
Chicago White Sox right-hander Philip Humber threw the 21st perfect game April 22, making 2012 the second year in three with multiple perfect games in a season.
Roy Halladay pitched a perfect game for the Philadelphia Phillies against the Florida Marlins on May 29, 2010. Dallas Braden achieved the feat 20 days earlier in a 4-0 win for the Oakland Athletics against the Tampa Bay Rays.
The previous time there were two perfect games in a year was in 1880, when Lee Richmond and John Ward became the first pitchers to achieve the feat.
There have been nine perfect games in the American League and 13 in the National League.
Cain’s effort nearly came undone twice, in the sixth and seventh innings.
Left fielder Melky Cabrera ran and made a leaping catch at the wall in the sixth to gather in Chris Snyder’s one-out flyball.
In the next inning, Gregor Blanco sprinted to make a low diving catch on the warning track to deny Jordan Schafer for the first out of the seventh. Cain tipped his hat to Blanco after the catch and embraced him in the dugout at the end of the inning.
“When Blanco made that catch in center field, I literally felt everybody on the mound with me,” Cain said. “The whole stadium was electric right there. It was unbelievable, so I had to find myself a way to calm down.”
Cain twice came close to a no-hitter this season. In the Giants’ home opener on April 13, he gave up one hit in a 5-0 win against the Pittsburgh Pirates. In his next start, he allowed two hits in nine innings in a 1-0 win over the Philadelphia Phillies in 11 innings.
Cain also threw one-hitters in 2006 against the Oakland Athletics and in 2010 against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Cain in April signed a contract extension worth $112.5 million over five years, the San Francisco Chronicle reported at the time, which would make it the biggest long-term contract for a right-hander. The accord has an option for a sixth year.
It was the fifth time the Astros gave up a no-hitter and first time since Carlos Zambrano did it for the Chicago Cubs on Sept. 14, 2008. The Astros have now surrendered two no-hitters to the Giants -- Juan Marichal did it on June 15, 1963.
Cabrera hit a two-run homer in the first inning and Brandon Belt did the same in the second before Joaquin Arias scored on a groundout by Blanco to give the Giants (36-27) a 5-0 lead.
Cabrera scored on Pablo Sandoval’s single and Buster Posey crossed home plate on Belt’s single in the third. Ryan Theriot scored as Sandoval grounded into a fielder’s choice to first in the fourth and Blanco ended the scoring in the fifth with a two-run homer.
There have been five no-hitters this season. Kevin Millwood and five Seattle Mariner relievers combined to no-hit the Los Angeles Dodgers on June 8. Johan Santana of the New York Mets achieved the feat June 1 and Jered Weaver of the Los Angeles Angels threw a no-hitter May 2.
Texas Rangers President and Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan holds the major league record with seven no-hitters.
The San Diego Padres are the only major league team without a no-hitter.