The narrative emerging from Wednesday night's spectacular pitchers' duel between Matt Cain and Cliff Lee appears to be something along the lines of Lee playing the role of hard-luck loser. This is accurate, because Lee pitched a hell of a game and kind of got hosed.
But make no mistake: Matt Cain out-pitched Cliff Lee on Wednesday, and, frankly, he got every bit as hosed in the win column as Lee.
Cain won't care about that, for a few reasons. He just got paid so he's probably not freaking out about his stats; he's already one of the unluckiest pitchers in the history of baseball to begin with; and his team won.
The last reason is the biggest reason, of course, and it's why Lee's getting lots of sympathy. But, again, Cain was better.
Lee pitched 10 scoreless innings to Cain's nine, but there's no question each pitcher could've kept going. Yanking them from the game was a mistake by both Bruce Bochy and Charlie Manuel, and I don't need hindsight to tell you that.
But Cain, despite pitching one less inning, still recorded a higher Game Score (Bill James metric for measuring the awesomeness of a pitching performance). According to Baseball-Reference.com, Cain scored an 86 while Lee scored an 85. So it was close, but Cain slightly outperformed the Phillies starter.
This is born out in the stats as well -- Cain allowed one more walk (one total) than Lee, but he also allowed five less hits, pitching nine innings of two-hit ball. Lee allowed seven hits and benefited greatly from four double plays that were vacuumed up by Jimmy Rollins. Double plays are part of good pitching, but the Giants, with a little more patient hitting, could have converted some of their baserunners into a little production behind Cain.
Lee's getting crazy props for his 81 strikes, and he should. He threw 102 pitches, which means he was dealing a strike 79.4 percent of the time. That's bananas, but it's not like Cain's 64 strikes out of 91 pitches (70.3 percent!) is shabby either. Lee also picked up 23 "strikes looking" as opposed to Cain's 14, so if you want to lob some umpire bias out there, feel free to.
Of course, the Phillies also made a pair of errors, one of which led to the Giants winning run in the bottom of the eleventh. Ultimately, it was the best game of the 2012 season thus far and it featured two of the best pitchers in baseball absolutely dealing.
Cain squeaked out a better performance than Lee by my count, but it was close. Not that Cain would care if you decided to lean towards Lee, given that the Giants pulled off the win anyway.