Matt Cain’s dominant start against the Blue Jays 11 days ago came with the caveat that it was his first good start in a month. His quality start in Phoenix last weekend was a big step in the right direction, but still, patience was required.
After Saturday’s game at AT&T Park, the Giants can officially start to get excited. There are no more, “Yeah, but …” scenarios. Cain threw six sharp innings against the best team in baseball, and he now has three consecutive impressive starts against three good lineups.
Cain gave up one run in six innings Saturday as the Giants beat the Cubs 5-3. The victory was Cain’s first since July 22, 2015, a span of 15 starts.
Cain had a 23-pith first inning but helped himself by snagging Ben Zobrist’s liner up the middle with two down and a runner on. He stranded two in the second and two more in the third after Kris Bryant’s solo shot. In his final three innings Cain retired nine of 10. The lone hit was a leadoff single in the sixth, and Cain responded by striking out Jorge Soler, Javier Baez and Addison Russell.
With Hunter Pence and Angel Pagan nursing sore hamstrings, Bruce Bochy went to his strangest lineup of the year. Kelby Tomlinson hit third and played left field, and slumping third baseman Matt Duffy slid behind Buster Posey to provide some level of protection. The lineup … worked.
Brandon Crawford and Gregor Blanco got on ahead of Cain in the second and he drove a double into the left-center gap for his first hit since May 10, 2014. Posey doubled the run total an inning later, crushing a Jon Lester cutter that stayed right over the heart of the plate. The two-run homer was Posey’s fifth.
The Cubs rallied in the eighth and brought the tying run to the plate, but Javier Lopez made right-handed-hitting catcher Tim Federowicz look silly on a slider.
Dexter Fowler opened the ninth by smacking a Santiago Casilla pitch into the arcade, but the Cubs wouldn't score again.
Starting pitching report: Cain’s last three starts: 21 innings, 4 runs. He had a 7.84 ERA before that Blue Jays game.
Bullpen report: Josh Osich entered with two outs and two on in the seventh and blew a cutter past Anthony Rizzo. Left-handed hitters are hitless in their last 17 at-bats against Osich.
At the plate: Before a Hunter Pence hot streak last month, some Giants folks noted that he was due given the exit velocities he was putting up. It appears, then, that Posey is ready to get hot. His homer was hit 108 mph and the seventh-inning single came off the bat at 102.
In the field: Tomlinson made his first professional start in the outfield. He didn't look completely comfortable, but caught every ball hit his way.
Attendance: The Giants announced a crowd of 41,507 human beings. Many of them wore blue.
Up next: The first two pitching matchups favored the Cubs on paper, but Game 3 tilts heavily toward the Giants. Madison Bumgarner faces righty Kyle Hendricks in a 5:05 p.m. game.