Angel Pagan

So far, it’s been the Year of Cain

All spring, it was about Matt Cain. Sure, we were monitoring the progress of injured Giants like Buster Posey, Brian Wilson and Freddy Sanchez, and there was the issue of figuring out the roster, but Cain’s contract discussions were of greatest concern throughout March.

In Cain’s first start of the season, six days after signing a contract that made him the highest-paid right-handed pitcher in baseball history (think about that for a second — as much as we all admire Cain, there have been a lot of right-handed pitchers throughout history) he gave up a pair of home runs in the 6th inning in Phoenix to make a fairly decent start look extremely messy by his standards.

An almost-perfect game in the home opener preceded a 4-game stretch where Cain pitched 30.1 innings with an ERA of 2.08, allowed 24 to reach base, struck out 25 … and went 0-2. Getting Cained (or Cain’d, if you prefer) was a twice-weekly occurrence for the Giants’ longest-tenured pitcher. However, that didn’t blur what we’ve been watching, not by a long shot. Cain’s been the Giants’ best player all season.

That’s right, Cain is the best. It was true before this weekend, but after Saturday night’s win in Arizona, as Notorious B.I.G. said, “If you don’t know, now you know.”

In pitching, a “complete game” means you start and end the game. In leading the Giants to their first win in Arizona in 10 tries, Cain had a complete game in a different sense:

  • 6 IP, 1 ER, 3 H, 2 BB, 8 K
  • In the 4th, Cain took a Lyle Overbay liner off the leg (no problem).
  • After taking a liner off the shin (no problem), Cain led off the next inning with a single.
  • After taking a liner off the shin (no problem) and leading off the next inning with a single, Cain took out Aaron Hill with a slide at second.
  • Cain’s slide at second broke up the double play as Gregor Blanco reached on a fielder’s choice; Blanco later scored on a double from Melky Cabrera.
  • An inning later, Cain hit a double to drive in Emmanuel Burriss and Brandon Crawford, who only got on base because Trevor Cahill couldn’t keep from hitting them.

If Cain didn’t get the win this time, after battling through 6 stressful innings and creating 3 runs himself, San Francisco residents would have started petitions in dedicated to banning the mention of win/loss records within the city limits. Cain got the win. He also gets a 2-2 record and a huge bruise on his shin. The shin’s got to be more painful, but it says a lot more about Cain than the record does.

Team Meeting

— Bruce Bochy talked to the team before the game, and told Jon Miller during the pregame interview that he implored his players to stop worrying about making mistakes, have some fun, play with passion to win but not so cautiously.

— The players who seemed capable of following these orders: Cabrera, Angel Pagan, Brandon Belt, Buster Posey, Gregor Blanco, Joaquin Arias, Javier Lopez, Sergio Romo, Clay Hensley, Santiago Casilla.

— The players who looked as tentative as ever: Crawford, Burriss.

— Cabrera is a guy who clearly enjoys making plays with his arm while on the run — quickly firing low, one-hop throws back to the infield. He needs to feel like he can do that without getting called for cheap errors. With Crawford, Burriss and Theriot (DL for an elbow problem that’s been lingering since Spring Training? Really???) manning the middle infield spots, how can Cabrera feel comfortable throwing to second?

— Lopez was “Cain’d” on that double-plus-error off the bat of Jason Kubel.

— Pagan didn’t just get 3 hits, he also broke his streak of 100 straight plate appearances without a walk. That streak went back to April 15.

— Love the fact that Belt hit second, don’t love that he went 1-for-5, but love how he got that “1”: a triple off a lefty reliever in the 9th, perhaps his hardest-hit ball of the year.

— Maybe it’s just me, but right now watching Crawford and Arias play is like experiencing two opposite sides of the emotional spectrum, sometimes in the same inning.

— With Crawford, I feel sympathy. Watching him back up on Goldschmidt’s grounder was pure sorrow, especially after seeing the look on his face afterward (and he wasn’t much better at the plate either, striking out twice and bunting to the pitcher with men on base and 2 outs).

— Watching Arias, who has just as much at stake at Crawford but plays like he has nothing to lose, has been a delight. Arias isn’t a long-term answer at any position offensively, but was there any doubt he’d make that throw after diving and making a clean play on Ryan Roberts’ grounder?

— Roberts helped out Giants fans a little tonight … and not just because he made an error and went 0-for-4. The Giants have more than their share of frivolous accessories and promotions, but none couple possibly be more embarrassing five years down the line than Arizona handing out wearable Roberts tattoo sleeves on Saturday night (Roberts’ average is currently .198, by the way). Talk about a doucheback giveaway.

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