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Color by Numbers: Keeping Score of Cain’s Perfection

Photo: Getty Images

It’s hard to be better than perfect, but last night, Matt Cain was just that. Not only did the Giants’ right hander throw the 22nd perfect game in baseball history (and first in franchise history), but he also tied Sandy Koufax for the most strikeouts while doing so. What’s more, Cain’s game score of 101 matched Koufax and Nolan Ryan for the best mark ever posted in a no-hitter of any kind.

Most Strikeouts in a No-Hitter or Perfect Game

*Denotes perfect game.
Source: Baseball-reference.com

By joining Koufax and Ryan with a game score of 101, Cain’s masterpiece takes a back seat to only Kerry Wood’s remarkable rating of 105. Then 20-years old, the Cubs’ phenom accomplished the feat on May 6, 1998, when he struck out 20 Houston Astros, the same franchise Cain dominated to make history last night. Although Cain’s perfection fell shy of Wood’s record, his performance was still only the 10th game score of 100 or greater in nine innings since 1918, making that accomplishment even rarer than the perfect game itself (the highest game score ever recorded is 153, by Joe Oeschger in an epic 26-inning affair).

100-Plus Game Score Club, Since 1918

*Denotes perfect game.
Source: Baseball-reference.com

No one should be surprised by Cain’s brilliant outing. After all, the right hander has now authored two of the top game scores this season. For those less inclined to trust esoteric statistics, Cain had previously thrown three complete game one-hitters, so maybe a no-hitter was just a matter of time?

Matt Cain’s Top-10 Game Scores

Source: Baseball-reference.com

Now that he has thrown one of the best nine inning games in baseball history, what will Matt Cain do for an encore? History hasn’t been very kind to perfect game pitchers in their next start, but after last night’s performance, for Cain, the exceptional might be the new rule.  Maybe he’ll join Johnny Vander Meer as the only pitcher to throw consecutive no-hitters? Or, perhaps, he’ll break Mark Buehrle’s record of 45 consecutive batters retired (dating back to his previous start, Cain has retired 32 batters in a row)? The Angels are next up on the schedule, so they should consider themselves forewarned.

Categories:  1: Featured  Baseball  Baseball Musings

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1 Alex Belth   ~  Jun 14, 2012 7:27 am

I know the strikeouts makes this remarkable beyond the good fortune it takes to get a perfect game. But there were two bombs that the Astros hit, the one Melky caught at the wall--and would have been a homer in many parks, and the amazing catch by Blanco in the seventh. I wonder if there were other perfect games with fewer strike outs but also fewer hard hit balls, where the outs were pedestrian, not a great play in the mix. I wonder if there was another perfect game where the pitcher didn't go to three balls--I think Cain went there two or three times last night.

Great job, as always, William.

2 thelarmis   ~  Jun 14, 2012 11:06 am

and not to harp on anything bad, because cain was *awesome*, but he also threw a ton of pitches (125). most ever in a perfecto. prolly had a lot of 3-ball counts. usually, these types of games seem close, but cain was staked to a large lead early, perhaps taking off a little pressure.

all that said, what a great game and accomplishment!!!

3 William Juliano   ~  Jun 14, 2012 12:04 pm

[1] I think the quality of the competition and degree of difficulty are definitely mitigating factors, but it's hard to argue with the end result. Having said that, I think Wood's 20 K game will be hard to beat in terms of sheer dominance. I can remember watching it and thinking a very good Astros' lineup had absolutely no chance to make contact, much less get a hit (even though they did have one).

4 BronxToCT   ~  Jun 14, 2012 2:59 pm

[1] I was at David Cone's perfect game, and I recall he didn't have a single 3-ball count.

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