The pitching probables looked like a fight card heading into the Phillies, Giants series.
There was the big aces duel between Roy Halladay and Tim Lincecum which Halladay took handedly. Then there was the mismatched battle between Joe Blanton and Madison Bumgarner which the Giants righty took with ease.
The main event: Cliff Lee and Matt Cain. Two of the wealthiest pitchers in the National League and famous Robins to their respective Batmans that pitched the Monday night match up.
On Wednesday, the two sidekicks combined to pitch 19 shut out innings, each earning no-decisions in a Giants 1-0 win that rewarded people who stayed up late on the east coast to watch an instant classic in the young 2012 campaign.
“This is one I’ll remember,” said Giants manager Bruce Bochy, who has seen thousands of ballgames. “It doesn’t get any better than what we saw tonight.”
Both performances should have earned the respective pitchers wins on their resumes. But being stuck pitching for a pair of offenses that will struggle all season prevented either pitcher from getting an advantage on the scoreboard.
“What’s done is done,” Lee said to reporters after the game.
Cain pitched nine shut out innings for his club, surrendering only two hits and a walk while striking out four and throwing only 91 pitches. He took advantage of an antsy and impatient Phillies line up that has drawn 19 walks, the lowest total in the majors.
Cain’s outing wasn’t a surprise. Five days prior, Cain pitched a one-hit shutout to the Pittsburgh Pirates, losing the perfecto in the 6th inning. His nine shutout innings against the Phillies extended his shutout streak to 18 innings.
Lee out-lasted Cain, pitching 10 scoreless innings while surrendering seven hits and striking out seven on 102 pitches (81 strikes). He also induced four double plays.
According to Matt Gelb, Lee was told by Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee that he was done after nine innings. Lee had to plead to Dubee to come out for the 10th. He also tried for the 11th but wasn’t granted his wish.
“He didn’t want to come out of the game,” Charlie Manuel said, “and I didn’t want to take him out. But it got to a point where we figured we had to.”
Lee’s 10-inning outing was only the fifth of its kind since the year 2000 (teammate Roy Halladay in 2003 and 2007, then with the Blue Jays; Mark Mulder in 2005 with St. Louis; Aaron Harang in 2007 with Cincinnati).
The last time the Phillies had someone pitch 10 innings was Terry Mulholland on May 8, 1993. And the last time a Phillie pitched 10 scoreless innings was Steve Carlton on September 21, 1981 in Montreal. (Expos won 1-0 in 17 innings on an Andre Dawson base hit off Jerry Reed.)
“Every time I pitch I want to get as deep into the game as I can and put up as many zeros as I can,” Lee said. “I was able to do that for 10 innings today. It was really no different than any other game. That’s what I’m trying to do every time. I was able to put it all together and they hit balls to our defense. I was able to get out of a couple jams.”
Needless to say, what Lee did was something special that not many Phillies fans will see for a long time. That doesn’t mean they won’t see these types of performances from both Cain and Lee often all season.
Last year, Lee led the league with six complete game shut outs. The 27-year-old Cain didn’t have any (pitched at least six scoreless innings four times in 2011) but boasted a low 2.88 ERA that reflects his ability to spare the runners crossing home plate.
Each pitcher has made their names known around the league, with Lee leading two pennant winners in 2009 and 2010 and Cain winning a World Series over Lee in 2010.
Yes they play second fiddle to Halladay and Lincecum, but for one night they were the head aces their respective teams paid them big money to be.