Thursday, June 14, 2012

Matt Cain Throws Perfect Game for Giants; Wilson Betemit Powers Second Place Orioles to 7-1 Win

Players of the Day for Wednesday, June 13, 2012

American League

Wilson Betemit
With the results of Sunday's games, the Pittsburgh Pirates were tied with the Reds for leadership of the NL Central, but, following a day off and a road trip to Baltimore, and two straight Cincinnati wins, the Pirates have quickly fallen two games off the pace.

After Tuesday's 8-6 defeat, the Pirates couldn't muster much offense against Baltimore starter Jake Arrieta (7 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 9 Ks) while third baseman Wilson Betemit, one of a number of key Baltimore off-season acquisitions, made them pay.

Betemit, who's seen his fair share of major league clubhouses, having been a part of six different teams since 2005 before joining the Orioles, went 3-for-3 against Pittsburgh's hurlers, with a single, double, home run, sac fly, three RBI and two runs, doing the damage in consecutive at-bats between the second and sixth innings.

With Batimore already up 2-0 on Chris Davis' first inning, two-run homer, Betemit doubled in a run and scored in the second, drove in another run with a sac fly in the fourth and socked his eighth home run of the season - a solo shot - in the sixth, providing more than enough support for the 7-1 victory.

While the O's have put a temporary stall into Pittsburgh's plans, they are alone in second place, a game behind the Yankees in the AL East and will be looking for the sweep when they take the field against Pittsburgh Thursday night at Camden Yards.

National League

Matt Cain: Perfect
Since becoming a starter for the Giants in 2005, Matt Cain has been one of baseball's more consistent pitchers, flashing brilliance at time, but falling just short of elite status.

No more.

When he got Jason Castro on a ground ball to third with two down in the ninth inning, Cain etched his name in the annals of major league baseball, hurling the 22nd perfect game in MLB history, the second in the majors this season.

Razor sharp, Cain threw 86 of 125 pitches for strikes and fanned a career high 14, as the Giants scored all of their runs over the first five innings for the lopsided, 10-0 triumph over the Astros.

No hits, no runs, no walks, no errors or hit batsmen, Cain's mound performance was, in a word, perfect, reaching baseball's highest achievement with his second shutout of the season and sixth overall. Cain has 15 complete games on his career stat sheet, and improved to 8-2 this year, with a sparkling 2.18 ERA, second-best in the National League.

Cain has struck out 96 batters thus far this year, ranking him second in the NL, four behind Washington's Stephen Strasburg.

Over the years, Cain has continued to hone his craft. He led the league in starts with 34 in 2008 and his four complete games in 2009 were also tops in the NL.

After a rough couple of seasons in 2007 and 2008, when he compiled a combined record of 15-30, Cain has turned things around, going 14-8, 13-11 and 12-11 in 2009, 2010 and 2011. At 28, the 6'3" righty has all the tools and discipline to make him one of the top pitchers in the game and Wednesday's perfect game seems a fitting accomplishment for a player that has put in the work on the long road to stardom.

The Giants have taken two straight from Houston and will be looking for the sweep Thursday afternoon. While the Giants have won seven of their last ten, they've closed ground on NL West leader Los Angeles, pulling to within 3 1/2 games of first place as a clear second, holding a 5 1/2 game edge over third place Arizona.

NOTABLE: Beyond Cain's golden performance, there was another demonstration of continued mound excellence back in the East division, where R.A. Dickey tossed a one-hit complete game in the Mets' 9-1 win over Tampa Bay.

Dickey set a club record by holding opponents scoreless for 32 2/3 innings. The Rays finally scratched out an unearned run in the ninth off of David Wright's throwing error on Elliott Johnson's grounder ball. Johnson advanced to third on a pair of passed balls by catcher Mike Nickeas, and scored on a routine ground out by Desmond Jennings. Dickey baffled the Rays hitters with his trademark knuckler striking out 12 and needing only 108 pitches to go the distance, improving to 10-1 with his eighth straight win. B.J. Upton's first inning infield single was the only hit off Dickey, who didn't walk a batter.

Dickey's league-high 10 wins were matched by St. Louis rookie Lance Lynn, who struck out 12 and allowed just three hits over 7 1/3 innings in the Cardinals' 1-0 win over the White Sox.

INTERLEAGUE SCOREBOARD: The American League continues to assert its dominance over their National League rivals, going 26-20 over the past four days to increase its interleague edge to 64-52. The cross-league contests continue for another 11 days, ending with games scheduled through Sunday, June 24.

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