We’ve had a few days now to absorb the trio of mind-blowing pitching performances on the local big-league scene Wednesday, and still it’s difficult to settle on which was the most impressive.
Matt Cain, on the heels of a one-hit shutout in his first home start since signing his mega-deal with the Giants, squared off with the ridiculously consistent and efficient Cliff Lee of the Phillies at AT&T Park — and with zero margin for error, he ripped off nine more goose eggs, allowing two hits while appearing as stressed as John Nash helping a third-grader with his math homework.
That absence of margin for error, of course, was the result of Lee’s brilliance: 10 shutout innings, zero walks, 102 pitches and looking as though he could stay on to throw 1,002.
But while that duel was going down in crazy-compelling fashion in San Francisco, calling to mind epic matchups of Octobers past, Bartolo Colon’s outing for the A’s was the most aesthetically pleasing of the evening by far.
The final line — eight shutout without a walk, four hits allowed on the road vs. the Los Angeles Angels — wasn’t quite as impressive as what Cain and Lee put together, but Colon’s route to victory featured both a stunning 38 consecutive strikes thrown and an absolute clinic on the importance of movement and location.
He’d start someone with a pair of two-seam fastballs that moved what Angles star Torii Hunter suggested were running “30 inches.” Then, up 0-2 in the count, he’d ignore the conventional “waste pitch” and instead unleash an ungodly putaway pitch, a four-seamer — straight as an arrow — on the inside black that left the humbled hitter dejectedly trudging back to the dugout with a look of pure exasperation and amazement on his befuddled face.
Three different outings, three different styles, three insane displays of genius. Take your pick and you can’t go wrong, but for pure entertainment, I’m going with the big boy in green and gold.
THE SUMMITT OF BASKETBALL: Tara VanDerveer of Stanford is now the queen of college women’s basketball, and deservedly so, but before she takes the throne it wouldn’t be right not to take a moment and appreciate the incredible legacy of the outgoing queen.
Pat Summitt of Tennessee is — with all due respect to VanDerveer — what Tara wants to be when she grows up. And I doubt the Cardinal coach would take issue with that characterization.
Summitt became the first true and lasting star of the women’s game. You could make a case that Lisa Leslie or Cheryl Miller deserves note in that regard, but nobody can truly touch Summitt, who struck a fine balance between a take-no-prisoners-style on the court and an intensely loyal, parental approach to dealing with her players and their lives off of it.
She carried the same sort of charisma that the top men’s coaches do, and she also became the first female coach to merit serious mention as a potential coach in the men’s game itself.
Eight national titles, countless accolades after 38 years of greatness, Summitt exits with an untouchable legacy. Best of luck to her and her family as she faces the challenges associated with her affliction.
SPEED ROUND: The A’s Yoenis Cespedes continues to amaze, as do those critical of him. The guy’s hitting bombs, driving in runs and taking his share of walks. That’s what sluggers do, and a slugger what Cespedes is. A rookie slugger at that. ... Are the Warriors tanking, i.e., losing on purpose? Of course not. They’re pros. Losing on purpose runs counter to their very being. So let’s wink and call it rebuilding, shall we? ... And finally, Niners GM Trent Baalke has been incredible at his job since taking over, no question, but everyone takes a misstep now and then. Trent, buddy, it’s fine if you still want to be friends with Gregg Williams, but you might’ve wanted to keep that to yourself.
Mychael Urban, a frequent co-host of The Wheelhouse (10 a.m.-2 p.m.) on 95.7 FM The Game, can be followed on Twitter @BigUrbSports. His website is UrbsUnchained.com.