FOREVER GIANT: Matt Cain more than able in final start

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- If you ask San Francisco Giants fans about Matt Cain -- they'll probably remember two dates: June 13, 2012 and Sept. 30, 2017.

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On a Wednesday in The City by the Bay -- a 27-year-old right-handed pitcher in the Orange and Black did something that only 21 other people in Major League Baseball history have done.

He threw a perfect game.

That's 27 outs -- all batters retired. Some how, some way they all went to the bench without a hit to improve their statistics and their moods. Those who were there probably felt that chill on the back of their spines, the one that only baseball fans can feel when they've witnessed history.

Five years removed from that fateful night when the baseball gods bowed down to The Horse as he took his last trip to the mound at AT&T Park.

Fans gave the three-time World Series champ a standing ovation as he stepped on to the field to begin warming up. It was Star Wars Day, and between Storm Troopers and a National Anthem sung by Princess Leia, there was a 33-year-old pitcher staring down the last day of his career filled with ups, downs, and perfection.

Before the first pitch of the 1:05 p.m. affair, the Giants did The Horse a solid and played an emotional retrospective of some of his brightest moments, like his first game in the major leagues and of course, bits from his night of perfection.

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As fans settled into their seats, gazing up at a scoreboard displaying Orange and Black history, Cain strode to the mound looking like he had won a silent war with himself with cheers drowning out that silence. "WE LOVE YOU MATT!"

He took a breath, reached back and hurled the last first pitch of his career. The crowd breathed with him and then roared and rightfully so.

Mary Rose Parkman and Adelette Ziegelmann-Jackson stood out in a sea of orange and black, with soft smiles, white hair, and big sunglasses the ladies carried signs of support for The Horse at the Coors Light Silver Bullpen near Levi's Landing.

When asked what her favorite thing about watching Cain pitch was, Parkman blushed -- and thoughts of seasons passed flashed across her face. "He's one of the few pitchers that have been to an All-Star Game, started a World Series -- and of course, he's our perfect Matt Cain with the perfect game. We love him."

"I come from a baseball family and I appreciate everything Matt did to help get us our championship rings, " Ziegelmann-Jackson told ABC7 News, laminated sign in hand. "He's been The Horse and it's nice to give him a good send off. We appreciate him."

Of course -- Star Wars day brought some extra flavor. One little Jedi-in-training had a special message for Cain: "Thank you Matt Cain, thank you for everything!"

Chewbacca didn't have much to say, but it's easy to see he's a fan of The Horse.

There may have never been a Saturday afternoon crowd this engaged in every pitch, especially when the team has absolutely no shot at October baseball. Fans were clapping, screaming, cheering with every toss -- strike, ball, ball, grounder, strikeout. He threw four shutout innings, but that didn't matter. All the fans cared about was the experience -- to take a piece of Giants history home with them, the memory of Cain's last game.

Later, in the top of the fifth, when young Padres slugger Hunter Renfroe did his best to end Cain's career on a sour note with a mighty drive to center field, the baseball gods drew a deep breath and blew just hard enough to send the ball harmlessly into Denard Span's glove on the warning track.

Of course they did. How could the gods not?

Those same gods had blown hard on June 13, 2012 when Giants left fielder Melky Cabrera looked up at a fly ball that both he and center fielder Angel Pagan swore was over the wall but somehow came back to Cabrera's glove for an out.

And Cain went on to throw the only perfect Game in Giants history.

So with all that in the past, The Horse left the final game of his fabulous career with five scoreless innings, leaving it to the bullpen to preserve his victory.

And of course it took just two-thirds of an inning for the bullpen to blow it -- and continue to blow it through the eighth.

In the post-game press conference Cain didn't even talk about the 3-2 loss to the San Diego Padres. It didn't even seem relevant. What was -- were the feelings, the emotions attached to a career defined.

"It was definitely an emotional rollercoaster walking out onto the field" Cain said, steadily answering reporters' questions. "The first couple innings were all adrenaline and the last three were -- just the guys and the fans, willing me along...that meant a lot."

Obviously, the fans mean a lot to The Horse -- they've been his champion through wins and losses, though World Series wins and wicked defeats. ABC7 News asked him how he felt about his die-hard faithful, and if he had a message for them.

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"They've always been supportive, they've always been there for us. And that's something special that San Francisco has," Cain said. "I don't think a lot of other cities can say that about their fans. They've been through some hard times with us, they've been through some great times with us.

Without a city like this to join together -- I don't think we would have done the things that we've done as a team throughout all the years."

Win or lose, Matt Cain will be forever Giant, and San Francisco baseball fans are thankful for that.

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