Let's say there are four states of Matt Cain.
1. Alpha Matt Cain
This is when he's better than you. And everyone else. Specifically, the other baseball team. He places the ball exactly where he wants it, his breaking stuff has impeccable snap, and his fastball has violent running action. This is rarer than you think, even when he's going well.
2. Mortal, still-good Matt Cain
This is the default. Walks happen because he's a little too careful. Pitch counts run up, but not to the point where he needs to be pulled after five. He can usually make it seven, and they're usually quality innings. Maybe a dinger.
3. Mortal, hittable Matt Cain
Cain doesn't dance away from mistakes. He allows runners, and they haunt him. He still goes fairly deep into the game, but the Giants score -3 runs for him.
4. Bad Matt Cain
The green on the roulette table. This is where the Cardinals know what's coming, and nothing goes right. But even beyond the Cardinals games, these are the games with the extra two dingers. The fastballs leak out. The sliders hang. It happens.
It's the gray area between two and three that's killed Cain this year. More specifically, option #2 has been a rarity this year. He's either been fantastic, or he hasn't gotten away with anything, or the Cardinals peck him to death. The second option might be the most frequent kind of game for Cain -- he can't be a demigod all the time. For whatever reason, the harmonious balance has been upset by the lack of MSG Cain starts. And it's been noticeable.
This, then, was a mortal, still-good start from Matt Cain. And it was still most certainly a welcome sight, even if it's not exactly a new phenomenon. He's been doing this since the break with fantastic consistency.
In other words, pretty sure that whatever-the-hell-that-was from the first couple months is gone. He didn't go full 2012 Lincecum. Thank goodness. Even though it's been bad season, this is why you stop thinking about "rock bottom." Cain looks like himself after some initial weirdness. That's one less thing to dread in the offseason.
Take a few seconds to picture a season in which Cain continually got slapped around, in which the struggles never stopped. Pretend the Giants rolled into Miami, and the Marlins' swarm of 21-year-olds left behind nothing but a skeletonized Matt Cain.
Now think of how this season would make you feel.
Exactly. The first 12 Matt Cain starts: 5.45 ERA and 13 home runs allowed in 74 innings. The last 12 Matt Cain starts before Saturday night: 3.39 ERA and five home runs allowed in 72 innings. The first 12 starts count, of course. This is almost certainly going to be the worst season of his career. But the trend is still going in the right direction for next season. Which is all we should care about. The Dodgers won again, and I'm starting to think the division is slowly slipping away …
Twenty months ago, everyone was freaking out because Matt Cain was a pending free agent, and the Marlins were probably going to make a big push to sign him.
Twenty months ago was so weird, everyone.
The Giants' eight walks tied a season-high. The last time that happened was the July 3 loss against the Reds, in which Tony Abreu's two-run homer was the only scoring in the game for the Giants. That meant seven walks didn't score. That was such a 2013 Giants game.
In this game, four of the walks scored. That's what supposed to happen, dang it. Not mathematically, but aesthetically. Walking that many people should carry penalties, like runs scoring, losses, or lead poisoning. Pablo Sandoval had a bases-loaded walk, even. It was the third of his career! First since 2010, though. When Sandoval takes a bases loaded walk, the game should just stop, and the other team should have to spend the next two hours apologizing to fans.
Well, the next few minutes, depending where you're playing. The point is, the Giants walked a lot, and they got a win out of it. Let's search the ol' GIF engine for "proud."
Yeah. Yeah, that'll do. Though I also would have accepted this.
The Giants have scored 20 runs in the last two games. Would you believe if I told you that was the first time this season they've scored 20 runs in a two-game stretch? You would? Well, you're very trusting, because I haven't even looked it up.
But now that I've looked it up, it's actually true. They're 9-8 in their last 17, everyone. If that's not a comeback I smell, then, well, it's an It's It that I just pulled from the freezer. Wait, it's an It's It. But at least I have an It's It. That and a pretty nifty Giants win.