Matt Cain

Giants barely avoid another Cain meltdown, slug their way past Nats

Matt Cain SF Giants World Series Parade 2014

The Giants keep hoping the old Matt Cain will come back, and it almost cost them tonight. Luckily, they scored six runs off Max Scherzer and kept the Atlanta disaster from happening again, as they beat the Nationals 8-5 to stay within 2.5 games of the Dodgers.

Just like the night before, the Giants answered back quickly after their starter gave up a run in the first inning. Matt Duffy yanked a fastball over the left field wall off Scherzer, who seems to be losing steam after looking like the best pitcher alive earlier in the season. Scherzer gave up seven hits, including four doubles and two homers, and lasted just three innings.

Cain seemed to be cruising along, as he often seems to during his starts that eventually blow up, and in the fifth inning he was clearly done. Still, even with Jeremy Affeldt in the bullpen and ready for the challenge, Bochy let Cain face Bryce Harper and … WHAMMO.

Cain has officially entered the Tim Lincecum zone, except Lincecum was better at his peak and never signed a five-year, $100+ million deal. Considering Barry Zito’s contract and Cain’s performance since signing his extension in 2012, the Giants may never sign another pitcher to a five-year deal again. They’ll just keep drafting pitchers in the first round and hoping they’ll strike gold with underrated position players, and spend their free agency dollars on shorter deals for veterans.

I’d better hurry up and finish this recap, because the game took forever and it’s Friday night.

The bullpen

They were phenomenal — five relievers, 4 1/3 innings, one hit allowed, no walks. Sergio Romo looks like a new man this month, and Javier Lopez took all of the thunder out of Harper’s bat. Also, why did the Giants ever send Josh Osich down? The guy is clearly a legitimate major league reliever.

The top of the lineup

Gregor Blanco and Matt Duffy each had three hits, and while they weren’t perfect defensively (Blanco helped deflect Danny Espinoza’s home run over the wall and Duffy made two errors), the Giants wouldn’t have had a chance without them.

Duffy’s homer. Blanco and Duffy hitting consecutive doubles. Blanco’s bunt and aggressive baserunning. Brandon Belt and Hunter Pence deserve credit since they each had two hits and Pence hit a home run into the garden, but the top of the lineup made the difference.

The discussion

KNBR 680 host Larry Krueger suggested that Matt Cain should replace Santiago Casilla as the Giants’ closer, and I voiced my opinions on the subject. My points, summarized: Cain is not a good pitcher right now, the Giants aren’t going to turn him into a closer in the middle of a pennant race, and Cain is not a good pitcher right now.

The hats

The Giants should require Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper to wear these every day. Despite the Nats’ comeback in the fifth inning, the Giants destroyed Scherzer and were in control for most of this game. Baseball players are superstitious, which means baseball players-turned-announcers must be superstitious too.

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