Matt Cain’s strikeouts reached double digits for the second time this season. The first was his near-perfect shutout in the home opener against the Pittsburgh Pirates, when he struck out 11. Still, considering two things — (1) the Milwaukee Brewers’ lineup is far superior and (2) how Cain started Sunday afternoon’s game (a 4-pitch walk to Nyjer “lightning rod” Morgan) — striking out 10 Brewers over 7 innings was almost as impressive as Cain’s 1-hitter over Pittsburgh. In Cain’s previous three seasons before this one, he struck out 10 or more batters in one game only once.
Cain’s always been the hard luck guy on the staff … err, in the National League … err, in the Majors … err, throughout history. However, the even sadder part about Cain’s magnet-like attraction to unfair no-decisions and losses is that it’s still happening even though he’s pitching better than ever before.
Cain was outstanding yet again, but this time the win went to Javier Lopez in the 11th. Lopez pitched to one batter. I guess Lopez just knows how to set the table for rallies in the bottom of the 11th. Anyway, this time Cain’s customary lack of run support (3 runs may sound like a lot in San Francisco, but on a warm day where Shaun Marcum wasn’t on top of his game they should’ve plated at least 1 or 2 more while Cain was pitching) wasn’t the problem. It was a problem, but even worse was the Giants’ defense.
“We were close to playing a clean game,” Bruce Bochy said. “The 9th inning got us.”
Conor Gillaspie started off the 9th with an error, misplaying a Corey Hart grounder. After Santiago Casilla struck out Jonathan Lucroy (one of 14 strikeouts by Giants pitchers on the day), Taylor Green popped out to Brandon Crawford. Then Travis Ishikawa hit a fly ball into the gap that Angel Pagan took an extremely circuitous route on, making what should have been a challenging diving catch into an impossible ball to even get his glove on. Pagan has a 20-game hitting streak, which is nice and distracts one from his sub-.300 on-base percentage. But his defense in center isn’t shaky, it’s shaky, trembly and jittery all in one. In other words, Pagan’s defense is the equivalent to someone who’s never consumed caffeine drinking three 5-hour Energies in a row.
The Giants’ defense improved in extra innings, however. Melky Cabrera brought the crowd to life as he caught Lucroy’s sinking liner, hesitated like a cat playing with its prey, then fired a one-hop strike to Brandon Belt to double off and embarrass Corey Hart simultaneously.
From there the Giants seemed destined to win, even more so after Buster Posey hit a 54-hopper through the middle to start the Giants’ half of the 11th. A mixture of some terrible control from Tim Dillard and a nice opposite field knock for Hector Sanchez (who ended up on the bottom of a dogpile afterward) added up to the Giants’ 14th victory and another series win, one which saved a subpar homestand from becoming the impetus for a region-wide panic session.
— No “I’m Sexy and I Know It” tanktop for Sanchez after his game-winning hit. “I guess that didn’t catch on as good as we thought it was going to,” said Cain, who made Pagan wear it after his game-winning home run in Cincinnati. Here’s that and the rest of his postgame interview:
— Sergio Romo didn’t get to pitch on his bobblehead day, but he made up for it on Sunday afternoon by striking out Rickie Weeks and Ryan Braun before getting Aramis Ramirez to hit a weak fly ball to Pagan. I talked to Romo after the game (and for some reason asked him about retiring Weeks, Braun and … Hart — doh!) about how he’s pitching lately, whether he thinks the closer role is overrated and whether or not his large group of family and friends who were here yesterday stuck around to watch him pitch this afternoon.
— Since the Giants headed out to the bus at 5:45 pm for a trip to the airport for their short flight to Los Angeles, it was per diem time! I don’t really have much to add to that except I’ve never seen each player get handed an envelope full of cash with their name on it before. It’s the little things that excite me. Or maybe I just wish someone would give me per diem in an envelope with my name on it.
— Since it was a travel day, the Giants all got suited up before heading to the bus. The best-dressed guy was Cabrera. A close second: Tim Lincecum. I’d say who the worst-dressed guy was, but generally they all wore pretty conservative clothes. I was hoping one of them would don some sort of plaid sportcoat Bob Knight would’ve worn in the seventies, but no dice.
— Matt Cain has his initials monogrammed on the cuffs of his shirt. MTC, Matthew Thomas Cain.
— Today featured a good game, as well as one of the better crowds I’ve seen at Mays Field (it is Willie’s 81st birthday today, after all). They cheered louder than usual when the Giants got 2 strikes on Brewers hitters, and barely anyone left early. Yeah, it’s Sunday, but generally there’s always a subset of people who take off when a game reaches extra innings, no matter the day, time or weather.
— Brandon Belt was walked twice with Ryan Theriot behind him today, which makes me think we may see him hitting second in the order sooner rather than later.
— Wait, I forgot … the Giants go against two lefthanders (Ted Lilly and Clayton Kershaw) to start their next series, so we won’t see Belt until Wednesday. Cue the gnashing of teeth on Twitter and your favorite local blog.
— Brandon Crawford didn’t make any errors, but he went 0-for-4 with 2 strikeouts. His slash line has become a pretty gruesome .198/.217/.321.
— The Giants haven’t hit a home run for 51 innings and counting.
— Buster Posey came into this year throwing out 36.8% of would-be basestealers. After his double-clutch gave Morgan enough time to swipe second in the first inning, Posey has only thrown out 18.8% of basestealers this season (3 out of 16). The Giants’ staff isn’t the best at holding runners on and Posey’s arm looks fine (he did throw out Cesar Izturis at second on Friday), but the Marlins ran wild on the Giants for three games. It’s something the Giants may need to address.
— Tomorrow should be very interesting. Aubrey Huff was in the clubhouse, leaving with everybody else, and one would think he’ll probably be activated tomorrow (Bochy said he might get a few rehab games, but I think it’s likelier they put him on the Major League roster on Monday). Will the Giants stash someone on the DL with some mysterious ailment? Will they go with 11 pitchers, something they’ve been hesitant to do in recent years? Or will they send someone down like Crawford, Joaquin Arias or Brett Pill? Feel free to venture a guess in the comments.
— My guess: they’ll send Crawford down to get his head right. He’s not real productive in any phase of the game right now, and with the pitchers they’re facing they’ll want to keep every right-handed hitter around that they can.