When a younger Matt Cain faced the Angels six years ago, he nearly threw a no-hitter.
Five days ago he was perfect.
The San Francisco Giants right-hander gets set for an encore performance this evening as he takes the mound for the first of three straight games against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Cain threw the 22nd perfect game in major league history -- and the first to be recorded in the time of the Giants -- when he struck out a career-best 14 batters in a 10-0 win over the Astros on Wednesday. Cain won his career high- tying seventh straight start and his 14 strikeouts matched Sandy Koufax for the most ever in a perfect game.
"First time through the lineup, I felt like I had good stuff and was able to locate the ball where I wanted to," said Cain, who threw a season-high 125 pitches, at the postgame press conference with an ice pack on his right shoulder. "I felt like something could happen."
What happened was that the 27-year-old threw the second perfect game this season (the White Sox's Philip Humber had the first on April 21) and improved his season record to 8-2 with a 2.18 earned run average in 13 starts this year.
Of course, the best follow up for Cain would be to become just the second player in the history of the majors to throw two straight no-hitters. Johnny Vander Meer is the first and only thus far, doing so in 1938 with Cincinnati.
A slightly-altered repeat of history could make that an exciting possibility. Cain has faced the Angels just once before, doing so back on June 19, 2006 when the then 21-year-old took a no-hitter into the eighth inning before allowing a two-out single. He ended up giving up an unearned run over his eight-inning start while striking out 10 to earn the victory.
The Giants will look to ride Cain tonight after losing for the third time in four games on Sunday with a 2-1 setback to the Mariners. Madison Bumgarner was outstanding over eight innings of one-run, three-hit ball, but after the Giants failed to score despite loading the bases in the top of the ninth, Justin Smoak hit a walk-off RBI single for the Mariners off of Javier Lopez.
"The ninth inning was the difference," said Giants manager Bruce Bochy. "It was the golden opportunity but we didn't quite get it done and they got the big hit. Hits win games and we were missing that today, especially in the ninth."
Bumgarner retired 17 straight batters after Dustin Ackley's sac fly in the second and Angel Pagan drove in the lone run for San Francisco.
The Giants face a former prospect of theirs tonight as the Angels start Jerome Williams.
The 30-year-old was a supplemental draft pick by the Giants in 1999 and spent two-plus seasons in the majors with San Francisco before getting dealt to the Cubs during the 2005 campaign.
Now with the Angles, Williams will try to avoid a third straight defeat tonight after allowing 10 earned runs over 13 1/3 frames of a pair of losses. Five of those runs came in a setback at the Dodgers on Tuesday as he allowed six hits and three walks while fanning a season-high seven.
The righty is 6-4 with a 4.20 ERA in 12 games this season, but 5-1 with a 2.93 ERA in six at home.
Williams faced the Giants not long after his trade to the Cubs, taking a loss on Sept. 9, 2005 despite giving up only two runs -- one earned -- on seven hits over seven innings.
The Angels recorded a pair of 2-0 victories over the Diamondbacks this past weekend after getting shut out 5-0 in Friday's opener. Garrett Richards and Ernesto Frieri combined in Sunday's blanking, with Richards hurling a career- high eight-plus scoreless innings and Frieri closing out his seventh save of the season after Richards opened the ninth with a leadoff walk.
"My fastball command was key for me," remarked Richards. "I felt comfortable. I kept guys off balance. The guys put up some runs for me today and we got the win."
Albert Pujols homered and Mike Trout added an RBI double for the Angels, who have won seven of their last nine contests and moved a season-best five games over .500 at 36-31.
The Angels swept a three-game series at San Francisco in the most recent meeting in 2009 and are hosting the Giants for the first time since 2000.