Big Sugar: Cain sweetens the pot with win over the Diamondbacks

April 13, 2017

MLB, San Francisco Giants

AP17103187511220

By Morris Phillips

SAN FRANCISCO–The 310th start of Matt Cain’s illustrious career had a nice ring to it: five plus solid innings, one run allowed and a win.

For a guy that hadn’t won in the month of April in five years, and had just eight wins total in the last three seasons, Wednesday’s outing was akin to walking out to the pitching mound and discovering gold slivers underneath the pitching rubber.  Cain wasn’t spectacular, but he was effective, and that alone pays dividends for the Giants going forward.

“He did everything tonight that you can do,” reliever Cody Gearrin said of Cain. “He’s hitting doubles in the gap and pitching outstanding. It’s fun for us as a bullpen to come off of that. He really set the tone tonight.”

Cain had a rough first inning, allowing a run.  But he settled in, and was still around in the fifth when his two-base hit incited a three-run rally.  The wet weather, and the Giants’ pen led by Gearrin took it from there in the Giants’ 6-2 win over Arizona.

The 32-year old Cain is light years removed his last All-Star appearance in 2012, which means his 2017 salary of $21 million guarantees very little.  In fact, after a rough, first outing against the Padres, another could have had the Giants’ tapping the Ty Blach/Tyler Beede spigot. Instead, Cain’s fastball had low 90’s snap, and the double off his bat in the fifth left home plate at 106 mph. Manager Bruce Bochy took note of it all.

“His command, he had four pitches going tonight,” Bochy said.  “He had a good curveball along with the changeup and the fastball command. If you look at his last few games, here he gives up a run but he just bowed his neck and went out there and pitched very well.”

After allowing a triple to A.J. Pollock to lead off the game, and a couple of first inning walks, Cain settled.  He struck out six in a 10-batter stretch at one point, and kept the D’Backs, who led the National League with 53 runs scored coming in, at bay.  When the first two batters in the sixth reached, Cain was finished, having thrown 92 pitches.

Gearrin relieved Cain, and struck out the next three batters on just 13 pitches. Brandon Drury got the worst of those encounters, lasting just three pitches and getting fooled by a slider on check swing strike three.

George Kontos, Derek Law and Hunter Strickland each got an inning after that.  Only Law labored, allowing two hits and a run.  Closer Mark Melancon got the night off as the Giants’ four-run, ninth inning lead didn’t yield a save situation.

The Giants improved to 4-6, but remain in the NL West basement, three games behind Arizona.  But 4-6 isn’t 1-5, as the Giants have experienced a nice rebound after a rough first week.  The Rockies visit AT&T Park on Thursday, the first of four games.  In the opener, Madison Bumgarner faces the Rockies’ 2013 first-round pick, Jon Gray.  The 6’4″ Gray possesses an elite slider, and at least to this date in his career, his numbers have been far more impressive at Coors Field than on the road. Gray was 10-10 in 2016, making 29 starts.

GAME NOTES: Several Giants had encouraging moments at the plate, after the entire lineup struggled to hit during the season’s first week.  Hunter Pence came up with a RBI knock on a half swing that gave the Giants their first lead, 2-1.  Denard Span had a double and a single, and has hit safely in each of his last three starts. And Jarrett Parker, part of the left field equation that was MIA the first week, delivered a nifty single to the left side to beat the shift.

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