Old joke: Guy makes a date with his girlfriend to go to the ballgame together. She shows up an hour late. He's annoyed, and he grumbles about it all the way to the ballpark. They go in and make their way to their seats. He looks at the scoreboard and gripes, "For Pete's sake, it's already the bottom of the sixth!" She asks innocently, "Well, what's the score?" He looks again. "Nothing to nothing." Her reply: "So, what are you complaining about? We haven't missed a thing!"
It's doubtful any of us who were not among the 41,000-plus who packed the sold-out 'Bell last night will console ourselves with such a thought. A true pitchers' duel between Matt Cain and Cliff Lee, featuring ten full innings of scoreless ball, ended in Our Boys' favor in the eleventh, when Melky Cabrera singled home Brandon Belt with the game's only run after a critical misplay by Philadelphia's Ty Wigginton allowed Belt to reach scoring position. This, after Philly had opened the top of the frame with a leadoff double and advanced the runner to third with one out. Cain had gotten the first 27 outs; it took three guys to get the last two. But who's complaining?
Cain allowed four hits and one walk in a 91-pitch performance that, given only four strikeouts, was just this side of overpowering. He could have gone a few more innings but Bruce Bochy chose to pinch-hit Hector Sanchez leading off the ninth. Lee, who surrendered seven hits, was in trouble repeatedly but induced no less than four ground-ball double-plays from the Giants; he reminded us of John Tudor and even old Fernando Valenzuela in his ability to get himself off the hook. He went ten, with 81 strikes in 102 pitches, before Charlie Manuel likewise tried to win it with a pinch hitter-- Jim Thome, no less, with that runner on third and one out. Thome has hit 604 fly balls over the fence in his Hall-of-Fame career, but he couldn't hit a sacrifice fly to the outfield in the 11th last night. Chalk up another one for the underrated Javier Lopez.
The Phillies and Giants always seem to elevate each others' game when they meet, and certainly this was the best game yet of the young season. It was also the first true pitcher's duel of the year for the Giants, who are averaging a robust 4.5 runs per game so far. (For those of you scoring at home, that would work out to 729 for the year; they scored 570 in 2011.)
Yet even with all that great pitching, neither Lee nor Cain was around at the end to get a decision, good or otherwise. That's just the way it is today. It inevitably reminds us of perhaps the greatest pitchers' duel of all time: the legendary 16-inning goose-egg fest between Juan Marichal and Warren Spahn at Candlestick Park on July 2, 1963. The inimitable Spahn, the greatest left-hander between Grove and Koufax, struck out two (!) and walked one over his marathon stint; he also managed a double off Marichal, one of 8 hits surrendered by the "Dominican Dandy", who fanned ten. The Giants hit ten fly-ball outs to the center fielder; Milwaukee's best chance to score ended when Willie Mays threw the runner out at the plate in the fourth. The Braves got the leadoff runner on in the 13th but Marichal immediately picked him off; the Giants left 'em loaded in the 14th. In the bottom of the sixteenth, Mays, 0-for-5 on the day, homered to win it. The whole thing took four hours and ten minutes, or about half the length of a nationally-televised Yankees-Red Sox tilt nowadays.
(Our thanks, as always, to the wonderful folks at Retrosheet.org for the above information.)