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Matt Cain delivers a pitch against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on Saturday in Phoenix, Arizona.
Matt Cain did it all. He was his town-sheriff self on the mound. He surprised with two hits, including a threaded, two-run double.
But Cain made his most emphatic statement on the basepaths, and it led to the tiebreaking run as the Giants seized a badly needed 5-2 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Saturday.
Cain, moments after leading off the fifth inning with a single, took a full head of steam into second base and slid hard, toppling Aaron Hill to prevent a double play. The inspired effort led to a run when Gregor Blanco, who had reached on the fielder’s choice, stole a base and scored on Melky Cabrera’s double.
The next inning, Cain knocked Trevor Cahill from the game with his double down the first base line.
Making Cain’s hard-nosed slide all the more impressive, he had just taken a line drive blow the knee to end the fourth inning. He needed a few extra minutes in the dugout as trainers found a shin guard for him to wear as he led off the fifth.
Finally, the Giants showed some fight against the defending NL West champs. They topped Arizona for the first time since Sept. 2, 2011 and prevented the Diamondbacks from beating them for a 10th consecutive meeting, which would’ve been the longest losing streak against a Giants opponent since the Padres beat them 10 times in a row in 1996.
It’s possible to wipe the slate. The Diamondbacks did it last year, rebounding after losing six of their first seven to the Giants. Manager Kirk Gibson's boys dominated the final two series against the Giants on their way to the NL West title.
Starting pitching report
Cain (2-2) went the extra mile to win for the first time in five starts. In addition to his exploits at the plate and on the bases, he held the Diamondbacks to a run in six innings.
Cain entered with an NL-best average of 0.73 baserunners per nine innings. He was nearly that efficient, holding Arizona to three hits, two walks and a hit batter.
The only run against him came when Aaron Hill hit a leadoff triple in the third and scored on a sacrifice fly.
Some nights, that would be enough to beat him. Cain received four runs of support over his four winless starts. But he supplied half that support with one swing.
The Diamondbacks scored a run in the seventh inning after Jason Kubel doubled off Javier Lopez and took third when Cabrera’s throw got past Emmanuel Burriss. Clay Hensley did all he could to strand the inherited runner, freezing Hill with a snap-back two-seamer on a 3-2 pitch and getting a grounder from pinch hitter Paul Goldschmidt. But shortstop Brandon Crawford committed an error that allowed Kubel to score.
Sergio Romo made another of those snap-back pitches to freeze Miguel Montero while working a scoreless eighth. Santiago Casilla tilted a bit before recording his seventh save in eight attempts.
At the plate
Cabrera was 3 for 5, he leads the NL with 16 multiple-hit games and his double put the Giants ahead in the fourth inning.
Their biggest rally, though, came after Cahill consecutive hit batters – including Brandon Crawford with a two-strike count – to set up Cain’s double. The pitch that hit Crawford was especially merciful, considering the young shortstop’s struggles at the plate. He struck out in his first at-bat and, unconscionably, tried to bunt with two outs and runners at the corners in the fourth. It didn’t work. Crawford also took a called third strike in the eighth and his average is down to .204.
The top of the lineup had mixed results. New No.2 hitter Brandon Belt was hitless in four at-bats before tripling in the ninth (off a lefty, Mike Zagurski, by the way). Blanco manufactured a run in the leadoff spot when he drew a walk to start the game, went all the way to third on an errant pickoff throw and scored on Belt’s ground out.
Cabrera continues to be the hitting star. His third hit of the night, another double, scored Belt to give the Giants a cushion in the ninth. Cabrera is batting .429 in his last 10 games.
It continues to be an adventure for Crawford, who backed up on Goldschmidt’s grounder in the seventh and then threw high to first base for his eighth error.
But then Crawford showed off his skills on a tougher ground ball, charging Willie Bloomquist’s dribbler and throwing on the run to end the inning. Crawford made another highlight play to support Romo in the eighth, when he ranged up the middle to glove Gerardo Parra’s slow chopper and made a lightning quick transfer to throw in time for the out.
The best play of the eighth, though, belonged to third baseman Joaquin Arias. He snared Ryan Roberts’ hot shot down the line, made an athletic spin move and got plenty on the throw to nip the speedy Roberts.
The Diamondbacks announced 31,719 paid. They crowd received Ryan Roberts tattoo sleeves. Neck sleeve sold separately, I guess.
Left-hander Barry Zito (1-1, 2.21) takes the mound Sunday in the rubber match at Chase Field. Zito is 3-8 with a 5.42 ERA in 16 career games against the Diamondbacks. Arizona sends left-hander Joe Saunders (2-2. 2.50), who has performed well after beginning the year as the No.5 starter.