Matt Cain

Matt Cain is probably done (this year, anyway)

Matt Cain Giants

The pitch was supposed to be on the outside corner at the knees. Matt Cain got the knees part right, but the slider drifted toward the inner half of the plate before Cubs rookie Kyle Schwarber clobbered it over the right field wall. After two strong innings to start the game, Cain’s night was already a disaster.

The Cubs had a 3-0 lead thanks to Schwarber. With Jake Arrieta on his game, that would surely be enough.

We’ve seen this all season. Cain gives up two, three, four runs in the first three innings, then settles down and ends with a strong enough performance in the fifth and sixth innings to “build his confidence going into his next start.”

There will be no “next start” for Cain, at least not this season. Not after an 8-5 loss to the hottest team in the National League, a squad that now sits 7.5 games ahead of the Giants in the Wild Card standings.

OK, we don’t know that for sure, but it’s difficult to picture a scenario in which the Giants — now 2.5 games behind the Dodgers, who won in Cincinnati — can allow Cain to keep pitching in this pennant race. Not after Miguel Montero crushed a Cain cookie to right for a two-run homer, followed by a Starlin Castro double and a broken-bat single by Tommy La Stella to give the Cubs a 6-0 lead in the fourth.

Cain gave up two singles in the fifth inning and got out of it with no further damage after a double play ended his night, but there was an air of finality.

Bruce Bochy’s postgame quotes

“(Cain’s arm) slot changed a little bit. He got a little over and pitches flattened out there,” Bochy told reporters after the game. “He was throwing well the first couple innings. It got away from him.”

The Giants couldn’t possibly make a decision based on the first two innings instead of the two that happened afterward. Right? RIGHT???

“We’ll talk about Matty tomorrow and see where we’re at. But he was locked in and just lost it there after his second (inning).”

After listening to Bochy for several years, talking about Cain tomorrow means they’ll probably make a change. I think.

Cainer Timmy

Many have compared Cain’s downfall to Tim Lincecum’s, but is that fair to Lincecum? The highest home run frequency against Lincecum was 1.1 per nine innings in 2012 and 2014. Cain’s HR/9 has jumped from 0.9 in 2012, to 1.1 in 2013, to 1.3 in 2014, to 1.9 this season (11 in 52.2 innings). Lincecum’s ERA has hovered in the mid-fours over the last three seasons after a career-worst 5.18 in 2012. Cain’s ERA is now 6.15.

Watching Lincecum was frustrating, because of the reduced velocity mixed with lots of walks and a dash of brilliance. Cain has been throwing batting practice after offseason surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow. Opponents are hitting .311/.367/.575 against him.

The Giants are paying Cain $21 million in 2016, $21 million in 2017, and either $21 million (team option) or a $7.5 million buyout in 2018. The buyout looks to be the choice now, of course.

If Cain is this lost after the elbow surgery, and that flexor tendon problem to start the season, does the possibility exist that he’s pitching through something he shouldn’t? Are the Giants not just hurting their own postseason chances by trotting him out there, but Cain’s chances of being at full strength next season? It’s too early to put a toe tag on his career, but there’s a wide gap between what Cain has provided thus far and “serviceable,” let alone worth anything close to $21 million per season.

On second thought …

Maybe the Giants will just keep giving Cain the ball. They let him pitch after the Montero home run, which was one of the worst pitches anyone on the staff has thrown all season. They let him pitch the fifth to save the bullpen. Yusmeiro Petit would’ve been the choice in the fourth inning, and he gave up two runs, one earned (a home run by Starlin Castro), so keeping Cain in the game might not have mattered, but it was weird that the Giants punted this game so easily. Maybe they hoped for one last gasp from Cain, knowing this might be the last time they’d see him pitch at this level until 2016.

The Giants could announce that Cain suffered a mild setback (Chris Heston must stay in Sacramento for a minimum of 10 days after his option date unless the Giants place someone on the DL). They could call up Clayton Blackburn for a spot start. There aren’t many other options. Lincecum is a ghost. Tim Hudson pitched 2.2 scoreless innings for San Jose on Aug. 14, but he hasn’t pitched since and there’s no word why. Petit is an option, but not one the Giants have been all that interested in utilizing as a starter all season.

Cain’s next turn would be on Sunday against the Cardinals, with a trip to L.A. after the game. It just seems like too much to ask, based on what we’ve seen over the last two years.

Extra BASGs

— Jeremy Affeldt landed on the DL with his third strange injury since joining the Giants. This was the second one involving one of his kids.

Based on how they played over the first seven innings, I figured maybe the entire team was at a kegger at Affeldt’s house, but there’s no way anyone who isn’t from Spokane would spend their off day there on purpose.

— Ready for some more great news? Here’s why Juan Perez played second base tonight.

“I had to take Crawford out, to be honest. His left side tightened up on him. The last swing he took in that long at-bat, it tightened up quite a bit,” Bochy said. “We’ll see how Craw’s doing tomorrow. The hope is that he’s fine. We’ll put him at day-to-day right now.”

I’m not one to obsess over odd year curses, but …

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