SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants celebrated the 10-year anniversary of Matt Cain’s perfect game on Sunday, with the three-time All-Star returning to the mound at Oracle Park to throw out the ceremonial first pitch to his former teammate Brandon Crawford.
Cain delivered the only perfect game in Giants history against the Astros on June 13, 2012, though San Francisco currently employs another pitcher who came agonizingly close to achieving the feat.
Left-hander Carlos Rodón came within two outs of throwing a perfect game for the White Sox last year, but his bid ended when he hit Cleveland’s Roberto Pérez with a backfoot slider in the ninth inning. He settled for a no-hitter instead, showcasing the elite stuff that led to an All-Star campaign and ultimately helped him land with the Giants this offseason.
Rodón didn’t flirt with perfection on Sunday afternoon, but he still flashed his dominance, striking out eight over six shutout innings to help the Giants beat the Dodgers, 2-0, and sweep their archrivals for the first time since 2016.
Austin Slater and Mike Yastrzemski launched first-inning solo shots off Los Angeles left-hander Julio Urías to back Rodón, who lowered his ERA to 3.18 while earning his first winning decision since May 9.
Rodón appeared to have a discussion with pitching coaches Andrew Bailey and J.P. Martinez in the dugout after the sixth inning, but the Giants opted to lift him with his pitch count at 98 and turn the game over to their bullpen, which was coming off a gutsy performance in Saturday’s thrilling 3-2 win.
For the second straight day, the relief corps got the job done, with John Brebbia, Dominic Leone and Jake McGee combining to throw three scoreless innings to seal San Francisco’s first shutout win of the year. Leone got some help from Slater, who made his second impressive catch of the afternoon by sprinting into the right-center-field gap to rob Will Smith of extra bases with a runner on first in the eighth.
“I thought as a team we played really well today defensively,” Rodón said. “We scored the runs we needed. The bullpen did a great job. … It’s big. That turns it around for us a little bit. We’ll try to build off this whole weekend and carry it through.”
The Giants hadn’t been playing up to their standards in recent weeks and entered this weekend having lost 12 of their previous 20 games, putting them in danger of falling too far behind the Dodgers and the Padres to make a serious run at defending their National League West title. But they brought out their best to pull within 3 1/2 games of Los Angeles, setting up the three-team division race that everyone anticipated heading into the season.
“It’s always nice to pitch in these rivalry games,” Leone said. “It meant a lot to us last year, especially having to fight [the Dodgers] tooth-and-nail to the end. That’s our goal this year. They’re not going to go away, and I think we want everybody to know that we’re still here. We’re still a competitive team. We can play our best baseball with everybody.”
Despite his electric arsenal, Rodón has struggled with inefficiency, which has prevented him from consistently pitching deep into games this season. He needed 98 pitches to get through four innings in his last start against the Rockies, who fouled off 33 of his offerings to curtail his outing.
Manager Gabe Kapler noted that Rodón was having some trouble putting away hitters, but the 29-year-old lefty regained his swing-and-miss stuff against the Dodgers, who produced only two hits and three walks against him. His fastball topped out at 100.2 mph -- the first time in his career he hit triple-digits -- and generated 10 of his 16 swinging strikes.
“I thought he did a really nice job of attacking the zone with his fastball,” Kapler said. “His fastball obviously had good carry. It got stronger as the outing went on. I thought the velo spike was certainly encouraging. He kind of pitched the type of ballgame that we expect from Carlos and what we saw earlier in the season.”
The bullpen perked up as well, rebounding from a Major League-worst 6.36 ERA in May to hold the Dodgers to one run over 13 innings this weekend.
“Unbelievable,” Slater said. “The bullpen game yesterday was huge. Overall, I think this whole last week they’ve been pretty spot on. That’s what we expected. If you look back at the first couple of months, a lot of it was just really bad batted-ball luck. For us, it’s just continuing to stay confident in those guys and telling them we’re behind them. At the end of the day, it’s all going to even out.”