Matt Cain is better at baseball than just about any other person in the world. It's what he does. He shows up at work, is better at baseball than the other people, and goes home. He's well-compensated for his efforts. Nice gig if you can get it, and if you're better at baseball than most people.
But there's a reason why I put "baseball" up there instead of "pitching." The thing that impressed me most about Matt Cain's game tonight was the slide. He pitched like Matt Cain, and he had a two-run double, but he also had a takeout slide at second base.
I'd like to think he said "'Sup, fucker?" to Hill as he got up, but that's only wishful thinking. Once they release the Matt Cain RPG, we can make these choices for ourselves. Aaron Hill was just minding his business as a professional baseball player, and all of a sudden, he had to deal with a pailful of Matt Cain. The best.
This was Cain's 210th start in a Giants uniform -- seventh-most in San Francisco Giants history -- and he pitched as well as we've come to expect. It's a Matt Cain day. There will be strikes, strikeouts, sneers, and those weird shoulder shrug-twitches. There usually aren't any surprises, especially when he pitches extraordinarily well. Tonight, though, there was a surprise. Cain can execute a takeout slide with the best of them. I had no idea.
Matt Cain's a benevolent man. He doesn't want to show anyone up. So he hit his single, he hit his RBI double, and he took out the second baseman, and he probably went to the dugout each time like it wasn't a big deal. At least 40 percent of the world would have said something like, "Anyone else thinking about doing anything?" before spitting and walking to the end of the bench where he could sit alone. I would have. I would pay tens of thousands of dollars to have a moment like that. Matt Cain is a bigger man than I am.
Also, Matt Cain is one of the best pitchers in baseball. He has a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 48-to-9 in 51 innings this year -- I'd love to think he's morphing into something different in front of our eyes. The strikeouts are up, the walks are down, and we're still in small-sample territory here, but what if Matt Cain is just a little better than he already has been for the Giants? He's still just 27. Max Scherzer is a few months older than Cain, and the Tigers are still thinking it'd be swell if he could figure things out. Cain is already there. Maybe he can get better.
Gregor Blanco walked to start the game. He starts tomorrow. This is a new rule. It expires at the end of time.
I'm still trying to wrap my brain around the horrible defense from the start of the season. I wasn't expecting it. It sure seems like a chronic affliction right now, something that isn't just going to go away. But 30-game stretches have a way with messing with your mind. There's a great chance that we'll look back at May 12 and laugh at the things we were thinking back then. Bad defense? Brandon Crawford, an iffy glove? Bah. Flimshaw.
Right now, though, there have to be serious conversations in the front office about what to do with Crawford. In the top of the second, Emmanuel Burriss hit a doink to second, Crawford struck out on three horrible pitches, and Cain grounded sharply to short. Cain easily had the best at-bat of the three. He also pitched six strong innings. Crawford and Burriss can't really compete with that.
After Crawford made an error that cost the Giants a run in the seventh, it would have been easy for Crawford to just walk off the field, Henry Skrimshander-style. Later, everybody. Krukow said he "could have just fallen off the face of the earth." I wouldn't have blamed him. Everyone wants the starting job; few have it all go so wrong when they get it. But Crawford made a sweet play to end the seventh and an even sweeter play to start the eighth. You can see why a team thought the guy could play shortstop for them. He can still play a mean shortstop when he isn't making stupid mistakes,
But that probably didn't head off the serious conversations referenced up there. I'm going to predict that Joaquin Arias is the starting shortstop before May ends.
That's not because I have a special affinity for Arias, but just because Crawford looks less and less like a major-league starter every day. And he was on the very fringes of starter-dom to begin with.
And if Arias is instead the starter at third, I'm pretty sure I'm against that. Conor Gillaspie had a rugged, rugged game at third in Los Angeles, but I still trust him to mimic a major-league hitter more than about half the other hitters on the current roster. I get that a poorly timed error can just kill this team, but I'm not looking forward to watching Arias hitting .230/.280/.320 for the rest of the year.
But I can almost get behind Arias after a play like that. Eventually Pablo will come back, and Arias will shift to short.
I'd love for Crawford to go on a tear, bring his numbers up to .240/.300/.310, and stop the stupid errors. That last sentence is like the saddest bargain with Mephistopheles ever. But I've lost whatever confidence I had in him by this point. Crawford, not Mephistopheles. I mean, both of them. Whatever.