Did Cain pitch greatest game in baseball history?

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Did Cain pitch greatest game in baseball history?

From Comcast SportsNet
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- For all those Giants masterpieces, from Christy Mathewson to Juan Marichal to Gaylord Perry, this one by Matt Cain topped them all. Cain pitched the franchise's first perfect game and the 22nd in major league history, striking out a career-high 14 and getting help from two spectacular catches to beat the Houston Astros 10-0 on Wednesday night. Cain's 125-pitch gem for San Francisco featured a pair of great plays by his corner outfielders. He got pinch-hitter Jason Castro on a grounder to third for his 27th and final out with the sellout crowd of 42,298 roaring. "This is incredible right now," Cain said. "It was unbelievable. The guys did a great job making it, in a way, kind of relaxing, because they were able to get on the board early." It was the fifth no-hitter in the majors already this season and second perfect game. Another Year of the Pitcher? You bet. In the very ballpark where Barry Bonds made home run history five summers ago, Cain produced the signature moment for pitchers. It was the 14th no-hitter in club history -- Mathewson pitched Nos. 2 and 3 in 1901 and '05, and fellow Hall of Famers Carl Hubbell, Marichal and Perry had one apiece. Left fielder Melky Cabrera chased down Chris Snyder's one-out flyball in the sixth, scurrying back to make a leaping catch at the wall. Cain raised both arms and slapped his glove in delight when Cabrera made the play. Then, right fielder Gregor Blanco ran into deep right-center to make a diving catch on the warning track and rob Jordan Schafer for the first out of the seventh. The 27-year-old pitcher hugged Blanco in the dugout after the inning. "Those were unbelievable catches," Cain said. "I mean that right there, that changes the whole thing." Philip Humber of the Chicago White Sox tossed the majors' last perfecto at Seattle on April 21. This is the second time in three years there have been two perfect games in the same season -- before that, the only other time it happened was in 1880. Cain (8-2) accomplished a feat last done in the Bay Area by A's lefty Dallas Braden on Mother's Day 2010. Braden tweeted Wednesday night: "What a beautiful game. Congrats 2 Matt Cain & a historic franchise & city. A special memory ill tell someones kids about! (hash)eraofthepitcher." Not since 1917 have there been five no-hitters in a season by mid-June. The only year that came close was 1990, when Fernando Valenzuela and Dave Stewart each pitched no-hitters on June 29 -- the fourth and fifth of the season. This year, Johan Santana tossed the New York Mets' first no-hitter on June 1 and six Seattle pitchers shut down the Los Angeles Dodgers last Friday. Jered Weaver had one for the Los Angeles Angels on May 2. The Astros were no-hit for the fifth time and first since Carlos Zambrano did so for the Cubs on Sept. 14, 2008. "Just an incredible night," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "We were all pulling so hard." The Giants made a big commitment to Cain this spring, locking him up for a long haul -- and he showed exactly why general manager Brian Sabean has vowed to keep his talented pitchers. In a week when the city's attention turned to golf and the U.S. Open, Cain delivered his most impressive gem yet in his 216th career start. The 125 pitches were the most ever thrown in a perfect game. The two-time All-Star who had long been the Giants starter who endured a lack of run support already was rewarded with a new 127.5 million, six-year contract in early April before the season started. This certainly meant as much or more to the homegrown pitcher. Cain threw 86 pitches for strikes, faced just four full counts and still clocked 90 mph in the ninth. Cain followed up Madison Bumgarner's 12-strikeout gem in Tuesday night's 6-3 win. "I know when I haven't given up a hit, I'm always conscious of it," Cain said. "Probably the first time through the lineup I felt like I had good stuff. The first time through the lineup I felt like something could happen." Something special, all right. It was the first no-hitter by San Francisco since departed left-hander Jonathan Sanchez did it July 10, 2009, against the Padres at AT&T Park. The Astros were no-hit by the Giants for the second time. Marichal did it on June 15, 1963. Even Cain thought Snyder had enough to clear the fences in the sixth. That's when the Astros realized it might be a long night. "When the ball I hit doesn't go out and the ball that Schafer hits is caught ... I've never seen a ball hit like that into that gap," Snyder said. Blanco said of his catch: "I didn't think I was going to make it, but I did," Ted Barrett became the first umpire to work behind the plate for two perfect games. He also worked David Cone's 1999 perfecto at Yankee Stadium. "He could put the ball anywhere he wanted," Barrett said. "He knew where he wanted to throw it, and he threw it there. Cone had the big, big backdoor breaking ball. It was against the Expos and I don't think they had faced him before. They were a little bit baffled by Cone's stuff." Cain pivoted on the mound to watch third baseman Joaquin Arias make a long throw for the final out, then the celebration began. First baseman Brandon Belt caught the last throw, tucked the ball in his back pocket for safekeeping and rushed to the mound. Catcher Buster Posey ran out to Cain, who raised his arm. His teammates jumped the dugout rail as the final out was made, a moment reminiscent of that improbable World Series championship in 2010 at Texas. "I can't thank Buster enough," Cain said. "I didn't even question once what he was calling." Cain's wife, Chelsea, fought tears when shown in the stands as the celebration began, then made her way to the dugout for a congratulatory hug and kiss. Cain had come close already this season -- not once, but twice. In his second start of the year, in the team's home opener April 13, he one-hit the Pirates in a 5-0 win, then allowed only two hits over nine innings in the Giants' 11-inning, 1-0 win over Cliff Lee and the Phillies. "I've had some opportunities in the past. There's really nothing like it," Cain said. Cabrera, Belt and Blanco each hit two-run homers and the Giants produced an offensive outburst rarely seen at home this season and rarely seen when Cain has pitched. On this night, he threw nine of his initial 11 pitches for strikes, commanding his repertoire with a dazzling fastball. Cain, who hit one drive into McCovey Cove alongside U.S. Open golfer Dustin Johnson before the game to show off one of his other favorite pastimes, sat by himself in the dugout between innings. J.A. Happ (4-7) lost his fourth straight start after giving up eight runs and 11 hits in 3 1-3 innings. NOTES: Blanco called it the best catch of his career. "I still don't know how he caught that ball," Bochy said. ... Cabrera's first-inning homer marked his first clout at home this year. ... Astros bench coach Joe Pettini will join Tony La Russa's NL All-Star coaching staff. ... Of the 22 perfect games, half have come in the last 24 years. Roy Halladay and Dallas Braden each threw one two seasons ago. ... Castro, who grew up near San Francisco and went to Stanford, had caused Cain problems in the past. Castro hit his first major league homer off Cain in 2010.

What pushed Theo Epstein over the edge in making Miguel Montero decision: ‘It screamed out’

What pushed Theo Epstein over the edge in making Miguel Montero decision: ‘It screamed out’

WASHINGTON – Cubs president Theo Epstein watched the Washington Nationals run wild on his iPad on Tuesday while visiting the Class-A Myrtle Beach affiliate. As Epstein did some work in his hotel room later that night, he got a text message from general manager Jed Hoyer alerting him to Miguel Montero’s explosive comments.  

Epstein’s management style is to not overreact or worry about the next day’s headlines. He generally believes in second chances, tries to keep an open mind and looks at the problem from every angle, occasionally to the point of paralysis by analysis.

But Epstein said it took “probably 10 seconds” before he realized the Cubs needed to designate Montero for assignment after the veteran catcher pointed the finger at Jake Arrieta – a Cy Young Award-winning, All-Star pitcher – for Washington’s seven stolen bases.    

“It screamed out as something that we should do,” Epstein said.     

As Montero’s rant caught fire on Twitter, Epstein called Hoyer and spoke to Montero on the phone, but he wanted to sleep on it and consult with some players before making Wednesday’s final decision, which could cost approximately $7 million. Epstein could not envision this as a team-building moment after Montero’s mea culpa and clearing the air with Arrieta.

“That was not my read on it, knowing the dynamics, present and past,” Epstein said. “This was not something that we would benefit from – trying to pursue a path of putting it all back together again.”

The Cubs pursued Aroldis Chapman after the New York Yankees closer began last season serving a 30-game suspension under Major League Baseball’s domestic-violence policy. The Cubs cautiously didn’t judge or unconditionally support Addison Russell after a third-party abuse accusation on social media triggered an MLB investigation this month. The Cubs tolerated Tommy La Stella’s refusal to report to Triple-A Iowa last summer, allowing him to chill out at home in New Jersey.

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But Montero doesn’t have a 100-mph fastball. Montero isn’t an All-Star shortstop. Montero isn’t being preserved for one hypothetical pinch-hit at-bat in the playoffs. The Cubs are hovering around .500 now – no longer the World Series favorite – and all those variables become part of the calculus.   

“I just came to the conclusion that now more than ever we really need to be a team,” Epstein said. “This was an example of someone being a bad teammate publicly, and that we’d be better off moving on and not standing for it, because we do hold our players to a higher standard than that.

“In our role as the front office, we can’t always be in the clubhouse and push the right buttons to help everyone come together as a team. But we certainly are in a position – when we see something that could fracture the group – to try to fix the situation and remove that issue.

“Miggy’s not to blame at all for the issues that we have as a team right now. He should not be a scapegoat for what’s going on. This was just an example of someone publicly not being a good teammate and making comments that weren’t accountable and weren’t supportive and weren’t in furtherance of the team concept. And we felt we had to act on it.”

There is a chicken-or-the-egg mystery to clubhouse cohesion. But Montero probably would have had a longer fuse – and the bosses would have had a longer leash – if the Cubs were 24 games above .500 the way they were at this time last year. Montero could also get away with a lot more when he was a two-time All-Star for the Arizona Diamondbacks and playing in a sleepy market. 

“Had we been in a spot where this group had already formed its identity and was clicking on all cylinders,” Epstein said, “and had already overcome adversity together and come together completely as a team and we’re rolling in those respects, maybe it could have been handled differently by the group without sort of action from above.

“But I think you have to factor in where the team is and what the team needs and how close we are to reaching our ideal and how close we are to living up to all the values that we have as an organization.”

The Cubs Way isn’t exactly making it up as they go along. But there are always double standards and rationalizations in a bottom-line business. It sounds like Epstein did his due diligence without giving it a second thought: Montero wasn’t worth the trouble anymore. 

“There aren’t that many opportunities for people out of uniform to positively impact the group or nudge it in the right direction,” Epstein said, “or underscore the importance of team or emphasize the values that we try to embody as a group.

“This was one that made sense, given the history, the group dynamics, all the factors involved.”

Can Leonard Floyd break out in 2017? The Bears like the early signs

Can Leonard Floyd break out in 2017? The Bears like the early signs

The Bears believe Leonard Floyd will make the leap from being a promising rookie to a breakout second-year player, the kind who can be a centerpiece of a defense as soon as this fall.  

The Bears in 2016 totaled 37 sacks —12th in the NFL — despite dealing with a rash of injuries and not having a standout player in terms of getting to the quarterback. Willie Young led the team with 7 1/2 sacks, which tied him for 31st in the league last year, while Floyd and Akiem Hicks each had seven. 

Sixteen players recorded double-digit sacks last year. That’s not the end-all benchmark for Floyd in 2017, but for a former top-10 pick with elite skills and, as his coaches and teammate said, the right mentality, it’s not out of the question. 

“With most players, you go from your freshman year to sophomore or rookie to second year, … it slows down, they understand it, they're not thinking, they're reacting,” coach John Fox said. “And so I'd expect that and I've seen that already even in the off-season.”

Floyd, earlier this month, talked about how much more comfortable he feels after a full year of practicing and playing at the NFL level. 

“Everything was just fast when I got here last year,” Floyd said. “This year’s it’s way slower and I feel like I’m doing pretty good this year.”

There are two issues with Floyd that won’t go away until he proves they’re not problems in the regular season, though: His weight and his concussions. 

The weight issue is one Floyd has heard for a while, joking with reporters during veteran minicamp that he was surprised it wasn’t the first thing he was asked during his session with the media. He said he “definitely gained some weight” without revealing how much he’s put on, only saying he feels like he’s in much better shape now than he was as a rookie.

“It’s like night and day compared to last year,” Floyd said. 

The concessions are a far more serious — and scary — issue given it took Floyd two months to fully recover from the second concussion he suffered in 2016. 

The Bears believe Floyd’s concussion issues are correctable, though, given they were the product of poor tackling form made worse by collisions with Hicks. The crown of Floyd’s helmet was too low, so he and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio worked with tackling dummies and sled machines in an effort to fix that issue. 

The hope is that Floyd can stay healthy and marry his skills with a better knowledge of the game to put together a breakout year in 2017. His teammates sounded confident during the offseason program that everything was falling into place for the former ninth overall pick. 

“He’s a great competitor,” Hicks said. “Great energy, fast, athletic, he’s everything you want in an outside linebacker, right? Nonstop motor — I can give you all the cliche terms, but I just feel like as far as the defensive line or an outside linebacker, another year under his belt is only going to make him better.”

Added linebacker Jerrell Freeman: “That guy is going to be good for a while.”