It's not fair to say Matt Cain threw just one bad pitch. He gave up a couple of hard-hit balls in the seventh. He threw a couple of first-pitch, get-it-in breaking balls, and those are like Schrödinger's pitch, with the outcome depending on if the batter decides to hack.
But Cain threw one obviously bad pitch, and that was the game. He threw it with two outs and two strikes. He threw it after the last batter reached on a bloop with two outs. He threw it to a hitter who wasn't even supposed to be in the lineup. And the pitch wasn't that bad:
It broke early and hung there, but every pitcher throws one that bad. I'm sure if you go through the perfect game, there's a pitch like that. In Game 3, it cost the Giants the game.
Say, a caining! Well, hello, old friend. It's been a while.
By my unofficial count, there were just three cainings this year before Game 3. A tough loss with poor run support is the sort of thing that happens to good pitchers in a normal season, so it wasn't even an unusual year for Cain compared to the rest of the world. There wasn't one of those eight-inning, one-run, the-Giants-get-shut-out specials mixed in, either. It hasn't been a good year for cainings, which means it's been a really good year for cainings.
Then, at the worst possible time, a surprise caining! And there was a twist, an addition to the formula. Usually the cainings involve the Giants hacking away, grounding out, and flailing at pitches out of the strike zone as Matt Cain pitches well. But some boy-wonder studio exec said, wait, what if the Giants get runners on the whole game but don't score?
And just like that, there's a hook, something to make this caining stand out. It was already going to stand out because it was the playoffs, but the number of runners the Giants got on base … ah, perfect. What a twist. Soylent Green is a sled that was dead the whole time. The Giants' performance was historic. They were just the 10th team in history to get a combination of at least 14 hits and walks while scoring one or fewer runs.
Cainings, by definition, are frustrating. But this was an evolutionary step. The previous titleholder for "most frustrating game of the year" was a start in May where the Giants walked 10 times but lost. That was as frustrating as a fuzzy puppy putting his wet nose on you compared to this game . The Giants left two runners on base in four different innings on Wednesday; they left runners on base in every inning until the eighth and ninth innings, when Mike Murphy wheeled out jerseys stuffed with hay so the real hitters didn't have to expend any more energy.
This has a chance to be one of the most frustrating games by any team, certainly in the last few years.
And that's before there was a three-and-a-half-hour rain delay mixed in so you could marinate in the juices of impending doom.
What a miserable game. Cain pitched so well. The center-field camera in St. Louis was perfect for watching what he was trying to do. He was curling sliders on the outside and moving fastballs back over the plate against left-handers. He was Matt Cain. But apparently that comes with a curse. Someone said "Matt Cain" in a mirror three times, and a plague of caining swept the Earth. No one was spared.
Except for the Cardinals. Stupid Cardinals.
It's never okay to blame everything on a single hitter for a team-wide failure to score runs. The Giants got a bunch of runners. They were in the wrong permutation. That's not any one person's fault.
But, yes, everything was Hunter Pence's fault in Game 3, and he's the worst hitter we've had to watch since Aaron Rowand played his way off the roster. The bloom is off the Hunter Pence rose, which is absolutely the strangest rose you've every seen. I think it had lips and long arms, and it twitched a lot, at least as far as roses go.
I cannot -- or maybe I absolutely refuse to -- believe Pence was ever good. I don't understand how someone with such horrible plate discipline and a swing that unorthodox could have ever stuck around on a 40-man roster. At least Tommy Joseph might have mixed in a dinger if he were in the starting lineup for the playoffs.
Before I wrote this, I just stared at Pence's Baseball Reference page for a half-hour. He has a career slugging percentage of .475. He has a career on-base percentage of .339. Those are both about a hundred points higher than I would have guessed if I didn't know a thing about Pence before he came to the Giants.
So I'm guessing this is just the story of a guy in a mechanical funk. It's like Hugo, and someone needs to oil the right gear, or maybe there's a girl with a wind-up key around her neck … something's wrong, but it's something that can be fixed. That's the likeliest answer. Pence isn't even 30 yet, and it'd be a weird time for him to start being awful. He's always been overrated, but he's never been awful.
Since the moment he joined the Giants, though, he's been awful. And if the Giants can't win three of their next four games, he'll become an offseason storyline. Will he be worth the $13 million he'll get in arbitration? Well, of course not, but when the Giants traded for him, you figured they were going to pay him that much just because.
He doesn't look like the roster spot right now.
And I like the guy, dammit.
Not sure why you're reading this right now. If you want to feel better, think about what you'd feel like if the Giants were up 2-1. Would you start making World Series plans? Would you laugh at the Cardinals and assume they didn't have a chance? Of course not. That'd be stupid. A team can come back from 2-1. One of them does just about every year. There is a time for panic. This is probably not the time. Pretend the Giants were up by a game in the series, and see how you'd feel.
Yeah, actually, the way to make yourself feel better is just pretend the Giants are up 2-1 all around. What a win for the Giants laa laa la la la and Hunter Pence with four RBIs what an addition hmmm hmm humm hmm hmmm and the best part is that Jason Motte worked so hard he's not available for Game 4 deee do deeee dumm dooooo.