In the current era of Major League Baseball, when strikeouts are rampant, the fact that Matt Cain of the Giants struck out fourteen hitters would be printed nowhere near the front page of any newspaper except on the West Coast. A few more details of that game from five years ago, however, remain unmatched even today.
For example, those fourteen whiffs accounted for more than half of the batters Cain faced that day, and four of them came against future batting champion Jose Altuve. Retiring all 27 batters in the Houston lineup could mean only one thing, which is that on that day Matt Cain pitched a perfect game.
A rare feat for sure, a perfect game had only been accomplished 20 times before that 2012 season, and Cain’s was just the 22nd in baseball history. Remarkably, just weeks before, right hander Philip Humber of the White Sox hurled a perfect game for Chicago against the Seattle Mariners.
Even though Humber managed to whiff former Most Valuable Player Ichiro Suzuki, the Chicago starter ended with five fewer strikeouts than would Cain during his perfect game. In fact, Humber came close to losing his flawless fight in the bottom of the ninth, when he went to a full count on two of the three hitters in that inning before getting both to swing and miss.
The fact that two perfect games had been thrown in the same season, as remarkable as it was, did not however set a record. Just two years before in 2010, Major League Baseball had witnessed two perfect games in the same season. Believe it or not, those two pitching gems occurred in the same month, just a little over two weeks apart.
On May 9 Oakland left hander Dallas Braden retired all twenty seven Tampa Bay hitters, managing just six strikeouts in a game that took just over two hours to complete. Exactly twenty days later Roy Halladay of the Philadelphia Phillies threw a one against the Florida Marlins, striking out eleven hitters in the 1-0 victory.
Thus the nearly impossible feat in the 2012 season had already been accomplished two years earlier, but on August 15 Felix Hernandez made it indeed a historical year. The ace of the Seattle Mariners had a flawless outing against the Tampa Bay Rays, the same team that had been victimized by Oakland’s Dallas Braden just two years before.
The former Cy Young Award winner fanned twelve Tampa Bay hitters, while making the one run scored by his teammates hold up for the narrow victory. Hernadez’s gem was the third of that season, and no other pitcher has accomplished a perfect game since then.