Cain's perfecto gives MLB five no-hitters in '12
Not since '90 had quintet of no-no's come before All-Star break
Perfection happened again. Just when the game appeared chock-full of no-hitters and perfection, one of the game's best took the mound and threw another gem onto the ever-evolving pages of baseball's record books.
Matt Cain's perfect game on Wednesday in a 10-0 decision over the Astros was not only eye-popping in that it was the first perfecto in the 130 years of the Giants' organization. Nor was it startling just because Cain's perfect game was the 22nd in Major League history, the 277th no-hitter of all-time or the second that came in a 14-strikeout performance (Sandy Koufax, Sept. 9, 1965). Cain's run at perfection was baffling because it was the fifth no-hitter and second perfect game in a season in which it seems perfection can come on any night.
In the span of 13 days, we have seen the Mets accomplish a franchise first when Johan Santana helped celebrate the club's 50th season by tossing a no-hitter against the Cardinals. Seven days later, the Mariners' pitching staff pieced together the rare combined no-hitter -- the 10th in Major League history -- as six pitchers shared the workload against the Dodgers. Then came Cain's perfection.
The recent run of historic performances is almost enough to overshadow Philip Humber's perfect game for the White Sox against Seattle of April 21, shocking enough considering it was just the right-hander's 12th career victory. Yet, before the glow of baseball's 21st perfect game could even dim, the Angels' Jered Weaver spun a no-hitter against the Twins on May 2.
Five no-hitters in the span of 53 days. It is a string of unparalleled success, but it is not the only time in baseball history when no-hitters have appeared as contagious as the common cold.
We only need to go back to 2010 to find the last time when four no-hitters were thrown before the All-Star break, including perfect games by Oakland's Dallas Braden and Philadelphia's Roy Halladay a mere 20 days apart on May 9 and May 29. Colorado's Ubaldo Jimenez's on April 17 and Arizona's Edwin Jackson's on June 25 rounded out the pre-All-Star performances.
For good measure, Tampa Bay's Matt Garza and Halladay (again) added two more to the 2010 ledger, six in total, including Halladay's no-hitter against Cincinnati in the National League Division Series -- the second postseason no-hitter of all time.
Yet, to find another season in which five no-hitters were thrown before the All-Star break, we have to turn the clock back to 1990.
The Angels' Mark Langston and Mike Witt kick-started the action by combining for one on April 11. However, it was June when the no-hitters came at a dizzying rate -- four in all. Seattle's Randy Johnson tossed his first career no-hitter on June 2, to be followed by 43-year-old Nolan Ryan, who tossed his sixth on June 11 for Texas. However, it was on June 29 when no-hitters came together in a confluence of epic proportions. Dave Stewart of the A's and the Dodgers' Fernando Valenzuela each tossed one, marking the only day in baseball history when no-hitters were thrown on the same night of the schedule.
Later that season, Philadelphia's Terry Mulholland and Toronto's Dave Stieb added no-hitters on Aug. 15 and Sept. 2, making it seven for the 1990 season.
The action didn't slow down in 1991 as another seven no-hitters were thrown. Beginning with Ryan's seventh, and final, no-hitter on May 1, the no-hitters were spread throughout the season, including Dennis Martinez's perfect game for Montreal on July 28 and two combined no-hitters thrown by the Orioles in July and the Braves in September.
The last two seasons of the 1960s, including the famed "Year of the Pitcher" in '68, can be viewed as a historic mirror for the number and condensation of no-hitters and perfect games witnessed in 2010 and '12. Eleven no-hitters were thrown between those seasons, yet just one perfect game, belonging to Oakland's Jim "Catfish" Hunter on May 8, 1968. The names may slip our memory as the 11 no-no's were bookended by Baltimore's Tom Phoebus on April 27, 1968, and Pittsburgh's Bob Moose on Sept. 20, 1969. Yet, those two years lived up to the era of dominant pitching.
Other seasons since 1901 in which at least five no-hitters were thrown include '15, '17, '62 and '73.
Is another one in store for 2012 to further elevate an already historic season? With approximately 100 games remaining and an already startling rate of success, it should not be ruled out.
Jon Star is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.