I'm not superstitious. I'm just convinced that everything that happens in this world is put in motion by something I did. It's not so much the invisible juju and phantom spirits of superstition that I'm worried about; it's good, old-fashioned solipsism.
When I left for paternity leave last Sunday, the Giants had just lost their fifth in a row. They lost the five games by a total of seven runs, and three of the losses were extra-innings losses. It was the kind of stretch that made you pine for a sport that doesn't have things like bloop hits and floating strike zones. Arm wrestling, maybe. I'd like to watch Angel Hernandez screw up an arm-wrestling match. Usually the arm wrestler with better technique and strength wins.
That's what our small, binary minds like to believe baseball should be: the most talented athletes should win every time. That's not what happens in baseball. And it makes for what might be the most frustrating of all the major sports.
After I left, the Giants won every game. And they weren't just wins. The Giants hit late-inning home runs in every single one. There were walk-offs. There were walk-ons. There were run-ons, run-offs, skip-ons, mosey-offs and Posey-offs. Just about anything exciting that could happen in a baseball game happened in the five games I didn't cover. After a Padres series, no less.
Also, note that my last full week off from this site was in 2006. Scroll down to Monday, August 14. That was when my honeymoon started. The plane landed in SFO before the start of the game on August 19. You can see how a fella can get paranoid.
Which is all a long-winded way to thank Sergio Romo for not blowing the lead. It's never fun when that happens, but if it happened tonight … dunno, but there would have been some serious life choices for me to make. Instead, the Giants swept the Dodgers, and they're still Penelope and 0. Life is as it should be. Life is most definitely as it should be.
With that navel-gazing out of the way, we get to focus on a sweep of the Los Angeles Dodgers at the hands of the San Francisco Giants. When that happens, the Dow Jones goes up, animal shelters run out of inventory, and the standings in the NL West change for the better. Before getting to Matt Cain, though, let's explore a question that's been bugging me for a while. That question:
Did Hunter Pence face a left-handed pitcher in 2012?
Preliminary research shows that he did. Here's the weird thing: He was worse against left-handers last year than he was against right-handers. That's hard to fathom when you see him look as comfortable as he did all night against Hyun-jin Ryu. There wasn't a threat of off-speed stuff moving away from him out of the strike zone, and Pence looked like a … well, not a natural-born hitter, exactly. But as close as he'll ever come. The Giants got a little hit-lucky with Ryu, with poorly hit balls finding holes in the early innings. But Pence wasn't a part of that. He looked like the middle-of-the-order hitter he was supposed to be when the Giants traded for him.
Matt Cain was good again. Matt Cain was good again. Even if another 57-hopper made it through the infield in the top of the eighth inning, that still wouldn't have erased the warm fuzzies that came with Cain getting outs and preventing home runs. It was good to see.
We were at the point of Cain's struggles where he was about to get the full microscope after every start. Every analyst worth his or her salt can form an opinion on every one of Tim Lincecum's outings. The validity of those opinions isn't the point. The existence of those opinions is the important thing. Is Lincecum's arm speed balanced through the release point that was imbalanced before the mechanics became unsustainable arm speed mechanics release point purple monkey dishwasher? Cain was approaching that point. All it takes is a month, apparently.
I'm not sure if Cain was better tonight than he has been for most of the season, though. He got a fly out from Ethier in the top of the third that would have been a home run in more than a few ballparks. Then the questions would have started again. What's wrong with Giants pitcher? Is Giants pitcher okay? How can we diagnose and fix Giants pitcher?
Except it was just an inning-ending out. So it means nothing. Maybe the rest of the stuff from April didn't mean anything. Or maybe that all meant everything, and the six seasons before that were park-aided mirages.
Eh. That hurts my brain. So we'll go simple:
1. Matt Cain good pitcher
2. Good pitcher pitch good
Grmmph. Good pitcher pitch good, so there doesn't need to be a mystery to solve with every danged pitcher on the staff. We were getting there for Cain. Thank goodness for Sunday night, then.
Though when Dee Gordon walked on five pitches to lead off the fifth, a headline of "MATT CAIN BROKEN, UNFIXABLE" was on the table. If that run came around to start the game-winning rally for the Dodgers, it might have been the front-runner
"Yesssss, Matt Cain is still in the game!" -- No one at all before the first pitch of the eighth inning.
Cain threw six breaking balls in the eighth inning. One of them was below the knees. I get the idea behind letting yer horse be yer horse so the horse doesn't start thinking he's a goat, but at some point, the damage done by a bad inning far outweighs the positives that would be gained by a smooth final inning.
Bruce Bochy is going to do this, though. We've seen it with Lincecum over and over. And I guess unquestioned loyalty and faith isn't the worst attribute for a manager to have. It still scares the bejeepers out of me as it's happening, though.