Matt Cain sets a new standard for perfection

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With his 125-pitch gem against the Astros on Wednesday night, Matt Cain entered the history books, throwing the 20th perfect game since 1900 and 22nd in major league history.

Cain struck out 14 in the contest, matching Sandy Koufax’s total on Sept. 9, 1965 for the highest strikeout total in a perfect game.

That gave him a game score of 101, which is tied for the second highest in major league history for a pitcher in a nine-inning game. Of course, Koufax, who had the same line, matched him there, as did Nolan Ryan in his 16-strikeout no-hitter in 1991. The top game score in a nine-inning game is 105, from Kerry Wood’s 20-strikeout, one-hitter against the Astros in 1998.

Making Cain’s feat more impressive:

– The Giants exploded for 10 runs in the game, resulting in some lengthy waits for Cain in the third and fourth innings.

– The wind was blowing out at AT&T Park for the second night in a row. The Giants had gone 16 straight home games without a homer before hitting two on Tuesday night. Tonight, they hit three homers. The Astros wouldn’t have necessarily needed to get all of one to ruin the perfect game and the shutout bid in one swing. Chris Snyder almost spoiled things in the sixth, only to come up a bit short.

– He got to face opposing pitcher J.A. Happ just once, and position players accounted for 26 of the Astros’ 27 plate appearances tonight. While the Astros aren’t exactly known for having a high-powered offense, they entered the night ranked eighth in runs scored in the NL.

Cain’s perfect game was the first in the Giants’ long history. The 14 strikeouts was a new career high for him.

“I can’t thank [catcher] Buster [Posey] enough,” Cain told MLB.com’s Chris Haft. “I didn’t even question him once. What he was calling, I was going to throw whatever he wanted and I was going to let him go. Buster did an unbelievable job back there. That was tremendous.”

Orioles sign Alcides Escobar

Alcides Escobar
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The Orioles have inked shortstop Alcides Escobar to a minor league contract, MLB.com’s Joe Trezza reported Saturday. The deal comes with an invitation to spring training and will allow Escobar to earn $700,000 in the majors if he breaks camp with the team (via Jon Heyman of MLB Network). The team has yet to formally announce the agreement.

Escobar, 32, completed an eight-year run with the Royals in 2018. No longer the .280-average, 3.0-fWAR player of seasons past, he hit several career lows after batting .231/.279/.313 with four home runs, eight stolen bases (in 10 chances), and a .593 OPS through 531 plate appearances last year. His defensive ratings also took a hit, and FanGraphs pegged him as the fourth-worst shortstop in the majors after he accumulated -12 DRS over the course of the season, only slightly higher than the Orioles/Dodgers’ Manny Machado, Mets’ Amed Rosario, and Red Sox’ Xander Bogaerts.

Still, Heyman holds that Escobar is being considered for the starting gig this spring and could yet prove an upgrade over top prospects and infield candidates Richie Martin and Drew Jackson. At the very least, the veteran shortstop figures to stabilize the position given Martin and Jackson’s relative inexperience, as both infielders played to varying results in Double-A Tulsa last year and have yet to break into the majors. Should either player earn consideration for the position in camp, however, Escobar might still work his way onto the Opening Day roster in a utility role as he saw some time at third base, second base, and center field in 2018.