San Francisco Giants pitcher Matt Cain may want to invite Dustin Johnson over to AT&T Park for a golf ball-smashing exhibition before every game he pitches. After joining DJ at home plate Wednesday night to launch a dinger into McCovey Cove 310 yards away, Cain tossed the first perfect game in the history of the S.F. franchise.
Johnson, who rolls into this week’s U.S. Open at nearby Olympic Club on the heels of a win at the St. Jude Classic in Memphis, Tenn., also threw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to the game and joked later about his toss, which didn’t quite reach the plate.
“What a game by Matt Cain!!!” Johnson tweeted after Cain blanked the Astros, 10-0. “I think it was all started by my great first pitch!!!”
Cain, who reportedly smacked a 342-yard drive during February’s AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, the Giants’ $127.5-million ace had tacit OKs from manager Bruce Bochy and GM Brian Sabean before taking his one and only cut. Sabean could not bear to watch as Cain, who inked a six-year contract in April to make him the highest-paid righty in baseball lore, drove the ball out of sight.
“I knew he was a good golfer,'' Johnson told PGATour.com about Cain. ''[Sabean] didn't want him [to hit]. He said he was going inside.''
For Johnson, who usually relaxes the day before starting a major tournament, the experience was one for the scrapbook.
''That was pretty cool,'' Johnson said. ''This is the first time I've been to the stadium, gorgeous stadium. To hit drivers off of home plate is pretty fun, especially out into McCovey Cove. It's probably the coolest place I've hit balls, maybe besides Augusta.''
Johnson also noted that if this week’s event were not a major, he might have taken a few swings in the batting cage -- a la Phil Mickelson at Fenway Park before last September’s Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston.
''If it was a baseball, I'd be a little bit nervous, but hitting a golf ball out here, I can handle that,'' said Johnson, considered one of the favorites to life the Open trophy on Sunday. ''I can hit. If I wasn't playing the U.S. Open [Thursday] I'd probably do it. I played up until high school, so I haven't swung a bat in a long time. I'll hit in a batting cage every once in a while, but I'm not doing it before I go out and play golf tomorrow.''
Other Giants got in on the action as well, and when relief pitcher Clay Hensley knocked a few dimpled balls around, teammate Aubrey Huff yelled, “Let’s get him his PGA Tour card!”
Hall of Famer McCovey, for whom the cove beyond the right-field wall was named, was pleased to take part in the pre-game hijinks.
''Isn't that amazing?'' McCovey said. ''They used to do these kind of things in the minor leagues to draw crowds. It's fun to get the golfers out. This is a big week in San Francisco with the U.S. Open, a lot going on.''
Johnson, by the way, followed fellow golfer Rory McIlroy to the mound. McIlroy, who hopes to defend his 2011 Open title, even got his own bobble-head doll for his efforts.