Matt Cain dazzles, Giants come back late

swell dinger, son. swell dinger. - Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Buster Posey was involved.

One day, there will be an oral history of the Matt Cain perfect game. Then, years later, there will be an oral history of the written history of the Matt Cain perfect game. I can contribute to that one. I have an anecdote.

When Cain pitched that perfect game, I was as tired as I've ever been in my life. I don't remember what kind of hot Xavier Paul news I was covering that day, but I do remember what I was thinking when that game started. And it was, no, no, no more baseball.

Then Matt Cain finished an inning. There was a pop to it, a statement. It was "Running With the Devil" or "Waiting Room." It was an alert that this wasn't something you were prepared for. I perked up. That wasn't the typical baseball game, and you could feel it after four or five pitches. He had his stuff. Ohhhhhhh.

I'm not sure what I was expecting with Cain's first game back from the DL, but those expectations were modest. Give me six innings and two runs, and I'll be thrilled. Absolutely thrilled. Just don't have an ambiguous, am-I-good-or-am-I-broken outing, Matt Cain.

Then he threw a pitch. It was 92 on the black, with movement. Ohhhhhhh.

That was as good as we've seen Cain pitch in a year. He did what he wanted to do. Buster Posey set up on the outside, and the pitch came in on the outside. No, it was more than that. The pitch curled back over the outside. Posey set up high, and the fastball came high. When a runner got on base, Cain willed him off the base with a double play. He was a magician, a warlock. The ball moved according to his wishes.

There was an ill-timed dinger, and that seemed very neo-Cain, a period that critics will argue about for decades, but for the most part, that was a brilliant, inimitable Matt Cain start.

Before we continue, let's play a game. How many games has Cain started for the Giants with at least seven innings pitched and three or fewer hits allowed? That's a pretty lofty set, I would think. Pitching seven innings is something of an accomplishment in this wacky modern baseball, and allowing three or fewer hits in those seven innings is pretty remarkable.

So guess, how many times has Cain done that in his career?

32

I know. I was about 20 off myself. It's worth nothing that the last one was almost a year ago, and Cain lost that game. It doesn't count. Looking at that list, though, I'll stack Friday night's game up with any of them. Maybe not the perfect game for obvious reasons, but all the others. This was as good as Cain looked, and even though there was a dark stretch when it looked like he was going to get cained so danged hard, he came out clean on the other side.

If you want an injection of optimism straight into the neck, don't look at the standings or think about an isolated win. Think about what it would mean to get Matt Cain back. Matt Cain. That used to mean something. It meant something in the second half last year, too, but we're a little wary these days. That was the kind of outing that made you think of all sorts of delightful possibilities.

Matt Cain.

★★★

Let's think about what a "caining" even means right now. It used to be shorthand for a brilliant pitcher pitching a brilliant game and not getting the credit for it. Cain was just great at that when he was a youngster. Eight innings, no runs, no win. Okay. Thank you, sir. Seven innings one run, no win. Okay. Thank you, sir. I promise not to allow that run in the future, sir.

When Cain was about to be cained in this game, it was ... almost optimistic. It wasn't nearly as dejecting as it used to be. You couldn't even get mad at it like you used to, when you were taking the brilliance of young pitching for granted. That's the biggest benefit of a goofy start; there's some room for silver linings. If Cain got cained, but pitched a vintage Cain game, it would have felt like a little victory. Because a vintage Cain means one hell of a lot more than a June win against the Mets. Dang, he was electric tonight.

Then the Giants won anyway, so we didn't have to worry about the caining. Good work, all around.

★★★

I don't even know the last time I mentioned a Buster Posey hit in one of these. When he gets a big hit, it's overshadowed by a bigger hit from someone else. He's the guy on base when the big hit comes. His slump is probably over, alright.

But he hasn't had the hit in a while. There was some catharsis with his swing tonight, a perfectly Posey dinger. Carlos Torres hung a breaking ball, and Posey rejected it. When he got back to the dugout, everyone else did a WWE dance except for Posey, who isn't quite satisfied yet.

That bit up there with Cain applies to Posey. Imagine if they're as good as we know they can be. The Giants are on pace for ... carry the one ... 231 wins for the season. Now imagine there's a fully operational Buster Posey, too. Screw the two-out hits, what about an MVP-type Posey season?

I don't know if that's going to happen, but there's some comfort in recognizing that Posey is an incredibly streaky hitter, because he's on the right side of the streak right now. Turns out he's one of the best players in baseball.

★★★

Over the next several weeks, there will be pleas for an upgrade to second base. I'm sorry, so sorry. The incumbent second basemen has a messed-up back, and the fill-in will probably hover around the Mendoza Line for the rest of his days. As such, it makes sense to acquire a second baseman.

Before this happens, though, please note the following:

  • Brandon Hicks can turn the hell out of a double play
  • The Giants have already received two months of offense from Hicks that they had no right to expect

When a team is 40-21, it's easy to pick nits. But a big reason the Giants are 40-21 is that when Scutaro went down, the Giants weren't futzing around with Luis Figueroa or something. I'm not sold on Hicks's ability to hit enough to keep starting. But, hot dang, has he been a find for this team so far.

Also, Matt Cain.

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