3 to Watch: The 'Watching Cain' edition
An amazing stat: Thirteen of the last 16 perfect-game pitchers didn't even make it through a perfect first inning in their very next start, and seven of them lost the perfect game on the first batter of the game. 3 to Watch wonders if Matt Cain will be different, and also whether the Yankees can extend their winning streak into double digits.
|Chances are, Matt Cain will be taking a more conventional shower after his start Monday. (AP)|
A little advice for colleague Scott Miller, who is heading for Angel Stadium on Monday to watch Matt Cain try for back-to-back perfect games:
Don't get there late.
Thirteen of the last 16 perfect-game pitchers couldn't carry the follow-up attempt through the first inning. Seven of them allowed the very first batter to reach base, including Philip Humber, who walked Boston's Mike Aviles in the first start post-perfection last month, and Catfish Hunter, who followed up his perfect game by giving up a leadoff home run to Rod Carew.
You know how people always say Johnny Vander Meer's record will never be broken, because to break it a pitcher would need to throw three consecutive no-hitters?
Well, no one has ever thrown back-to-back perfect games. You only need two in a row to break the record.
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But don't count on that happening, either.
For all the talk about how perfect games have become more common, they're still incredible events, and they still require incredible skill, timing, luck and help.
Think about this: The only thing that separated Matt Cain's perfect game last Wednesday night from R.A. Dickey's one-hitter earlier the same evening was an incredible catch byGregor Blanco and two plays that David Wright didn't make at third base.
Dickey didn't walk anyone or hit anyone, same as Cain. The only baserunners were on two ground balls to Wright, a first-inning roller that was properly scored a hit (and upheld as such), and a ninth-inning grounder that was properly scored an error (and led to the Rays' only run).
That's not to take anything away from Cain, or to give anything to Dickey that he doesn't deserve. It's simply a fact, and a reminder of what makes perfect games (still) so rare and special.
And so hard to repeat.
Perhaps Cain can make a run at double-perfection. The Angels, who he'll face Monday, have been shut out nine times already this season. Just last Friday, they had only one hit against the Diamondbacks, in a game started by Trevor Cahill and finished by the bullpen.
Perhaps Cain will do what Mark Buehrle did in 2009, when he followed up his perfect game by retiring the first 17 Twins he faced five days later.
More likely, he won't. He might even give up a hit to the first batter he faces.
Scott, consider yourself warned. Don't miss it.
On to 3 to Watch:
1. Here's a number that surprised me: Over the past 13 1/2 years, the Twins and Indians have three times as many double-digit winning streaks as the Yankees do. The A's have four times as many. That's because the Yankees only have one, back in 2005, when Joe Torre was still the manager, Tino Martinez and Bernie Williams were still playing, Randy Johnson was still in the rotation and Alex Rodriguez was still a guy capable of hitting 48 home runs in a season. So maybe we should be paying more attention to the Yankees' current nine-game streak, and to their chance to reach double digits in Braves at Yankees, Monday night (7:05 ET) at Yankee Stadium. And here's an even more amazing stat: The last time the Yankees won more than 10 games in a row was in 1985, when Billy Martin was the manager and Don Mattingly was a 24-year-old first baseman. Their last streak longer than 11 games was in 1961, when they won 13 straight.
2. Dickey didn't get his no-hitter, let alone a perfect game. He even lost his streak of shutout innings, after first extending it to a Mets-record 32 1/3 innings. But because that ninth-inning run was unearned, Dickey has now gone 33 1/3 innings without allowing an earned run, a streak that he'll try to continue in Orioles at Mets, Monday night (7:10 ET) at Citi Field. He'll also attempt to become the first 11-game winner in the major leagues this year.
3. Did you know that the Angels have never scored an earned run off Matt Cain? Or that their all-time team batting average against him is .040? To be fair, he has faced the Angels only once in his career, but it was a good one. Cain carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning on that June 19, 2006, night in San Francisco, before Chone Figgins broke it up with a single. Figgins won't be there when Cain starts in Giants at Angels, Monday night (10:05 ET) at Angel Stadium, but it might be more significant that Albert Pujols will be. Pujols is 8 for 14 (.571) in his career against Cain, with a double and two home runs.
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