Pitcher Matt Cain mans up, rights the staff's ship as the Giants top the A's in their first game at AT&T Park since winning the World Series.
As much as you can actually need a preseason win, the Giants needed Monday night's game to turn out positively. It was the defending champs' return to AT&T Park, it was against their Bay rival Athletics, and it was coming on the heels of a pretty nasty preseason skid in which the starting pitching performed pretty poorly.
There wasn't much to complain about Monday, though -- and San Francisco ended up closing out the A's 4-3, thanks to a strong performance from Matt Cain and a host of big plays from some critical role players.
Cain looked substantially sharper on the mound than he has in recent starts, drawing praise from manager Bruce Bochy.
"Great job," Bochy said. "He got his work in, close to 90 pitches. Good secondary pitches. The ball moves differently here."
If it's the home park that makes Cain pitch better, then Giants fans should be thrilled to have him back at the bay -- both his fastball and his offspeed stuff looked a ton sharper than it has in recent games, and Cain managed six strikeouts in just 5.1 innings.
He also gave up three earned runs, but the offense and the bullpen were strong enough Monday to counter the Oakland bats.
Buster Posey continued to pile up -- he went 2-for-3 -- to raise his spring average to a sweltering .422, Pat Burrell provided a two-out, two-run double in the third, and Aubrey Huff hit a solo homer in the fifth inning (his sixth of the spring) to put the Giants up for good.
Steve Edlefsen, Santiago Cassila, and Jeremy Affeldt all combined for 2.2 scoreless innings, and Sergio Romo -- the beard-in-waiting -- picked up his first save of the preseason with a perfect ninth.
He got a little help from the defense, too. Particularly on the final out of the game, which showcased the range that Pablo Sandoval's picked up thanks to losing 30-some pounds. Sandoval ranged deep into the bullpen to make an impressively athletic, game-ending catch in foul territory; it was a play that absolutely wouldn't have happened in 2010.
All-in-all, it was an impressive effort from a team that's struggled recently, and solid proof that even if the Giants suffer injuries during the regular season that didn't crop up in 2010, there's enough depth and improved talent on the roster to remain competitive throughout the season.