Matt Cain's Closest Call?

As Matt Cain twirled the first perfect game in Giants history, he couldn't have done it without some breaks. He probably got the benefit of the doubt a few times with borderline strikes, especially once he got going. In the seventh inning, Gregor Blanco made an absolutely sensational diving catch to rob Jordan Schafer of extra bases. Had some of the ball/strike calls been different, Cain might've lost the perfect game. Had Blanco not flagged that drive down, Cain would've lost the perfect game and the no-hitter. There's almost always a catch like that in a game like this, and Blanco was responsible for the catch tonight.

There was another break, though, leading off the top of the fourth. Before anybody started taking seriously the idea that Matt Cain could make history. Jordan Schafer lined a ball foul down the first-base line. It might have been foul, or it might not have been. These still and moving images are not very helpful:

Schafercain_medium

Schaferfoul1

Schaferfoul2

Mike Muchlinski called it foul, and Schafer didn't argue. Brad Mills argued, but not for long, and not with much vigor. Schafer would go on to make an out, as everybody did.

With Johan Santana's no-hitter, we have solid proof that a fair ball was ruled foul. Here, we don't have that proof, as there's no compelling evidence to point either way. Muchlinski was the closest umpire to the ball, and he called it foul, which is meaningful. There's not going to be any controversy surrounding Cain's perfect game. But as this play shows, baseball is, as it's always been, a game of inches. Or units of measurement smaller than inches.

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