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.”

Red Sox look to punch their ticket to the World Series tonight

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Thanks to some amazing defense, some big hits and — to continue to beat this horse, a bad call by Joe West — the Red Sox have a 3-1 lead in the ALCS and look to clinch the AL Pennant tonight down in Houston.

If you believe in momentum, you’d have to say it’s on Boston’s side. If you believe that momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher, however, you’d have to say things favor Houston more than the standing of the series would suggest. All of which makes me wish Game 5 was starting right now, because it figures to be a tense and exciting affair.

ALCS Game 5

Red Sox vs. Astros
Ballpark: Minute Maid Park
Time: 8:09 PM Eastern
TV: TBS
Pitchers: David Price vs. Justin Verlander
Breakdown:

If someone told you that you had to win one baseball game against the Martians to save the human race, you could do far worse than calling on Justin Verlander to be your starting pitcher. Among the pitchers still in the postseason, he’d almost certainly be your choice right now.

Does Verlander himself appreciate the situation? This is what he said about that yesterday:

“I mean, these are all must-win games at this point. Every time you take the mound I don’t think there’s any difference whether it’s 2-2 or 3-1.”

Look, we’re asking him to beat the Martians here, not win the National Math Bee, so let’s let that go. The point is that after all of these years he’s still one of the most dominant pitchers in the game and after the exhausting, see-saw battle of Game 4, he stands the best chance of giving Houston what it needs: a quick, quiet and drama-free win.

Not that the Red Sox are likely to roll over for that. They didn’t the first time they faced Verlander in this series. They Astros won, yes, and Verlander limited them to two runs on two hits. But he also issued four walks and wasn’t his sharpest overall. Boston didn’t capitalize on his mistakes as best they could, but he’s not invincible.

For Boston it’s David Price. He allowed four runs on five hits and four walks over four and two-thirds innings in Game 2, not factoring in the decision. That’s not great, but given the talk leading up to that game being all about how Price is a postseason flop, the fact that the Sox won it in the end had to bouy him at least a little. As does the fact that, here, tonight, it’s not 100% on his shoulders. Sure, the Sox want to close this out, but with a 3-1 lead there is less pressure on Price than on his former teammate Verlander. Worth noting, though: Price is on short rest and warmed up in the bullpen last night in case he was needed to bail out Craig Kimbrel. He may not go deep into this game.