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Giants take series from Padres behind Matt Cain, more dingers

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Buster Posey and at least a couple Brandons helped, of course.

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

There isn't a baseball-satisfaction index, but there should be. Maybe that's something for an offseason project. It would be a list of satisfying ways to experience a win, ranked in order of satisfaction. Walk-off grand slam on the far right, pyrrhic win with a devastating injury on the left. Somewhere on the right, way over, would be Wednesday's game against the Padres.

There are a lot of obvious reasons.

  • Dingers
  • Padres
  • Series win
  • The score
  • A reverse-Caining
  • Padres

I'd also like to think that Dale Thayer spit his gum out in continuing frustration, but got the gum stuck in his muttonchops, which led to every member of the Padres organization stopping by his locker after the game to share their home remedies for getting gum out of a beard.

Jedd Gyorko: Dude, tomato juice. You're supposed to douse yourself with the stuff.

Dale Thayer: That's for when your dog gets sprayed by a skunk.

Gyorko: But you don't even have a dog.

Stick with the obvious reasons for now, though. More dingers. More runs. The road trip is an unqualified success. Matt Cain left a game he wasn't going to win, and ended up getting the win. You don't need a list to remember why you enjoyed the win, but the list still makes you smile.

Allow me to point out an underrated peg on the baseball-satisfaction index, though. There's hardly anything more satisfying than facing a team with an obvious weakness, and then beating them because of that same weakness. As in, if you're facing a team with a horrible backup catcher as the cleanup hitter for some reason, and the game ends with the bases loaded and the horrible backup catcher waving through three pitches, that's extra satisfying. If the other team has a known problem with its closer, and the Giants win on a blown save, that's extra extra satisfying. It's like watching someone's stuff get ruined by rain in a roofless house.

Everyone figured before the season that the Padres' outfield defense was going to be a problem. They were hoping to hit and pitch around that flaw, but it was a very obvious and noticeable flaw. So it's indescribably satisfying to watch Matt Kemp play right field like Glenallen Hill trapped in a pillowcase.

Other than shaking hands with Tommy Lasorda on purpose, I don't have that much against Matt Kemp personally. Not enough to wish whatever that was on him, specifically. The satisfaction comes from everyone getting so very high on the transaction dust the Padres were passing around -- hey, I was deep into it too, not gonna lie -- but their obvious fatal flaw showing up back-to-back in the same inning. A normal right fielder catches that ball and ends the inning. In a 1-1 game. Thayer likely doesn't come in for the hilarious eighth inning, either.

It's hard to prove that Kemp was solely responsible for the Padres' loss, but, folks, he sure didn't help. We've been waiting all year to say something like that. The Padres built a roster knowing that it would lead to days like this, but they assumed the good would outweigh the bad. It hasn't so far, and when the obvious happens, the baseball-satisfaction meter starts humming and turning weird colors.

Just ignore the idea that the Giants corollary would be back of their rotation imploding, and we'll be fine.

★★★

You can also ignore that corollary because you were treated to a vintage Matt Cain start. Matt Cain!

cain again

I use that GIF at least once every two months, but I just realized that he's probably shouting "MATT CAIN" in it. There's no other explanation.

At least, I think it was a vintage Matt Cain start. What is a vintage Cain start, anyway? When was the last time Giants fans were unambiguously optimistic about him? He was a horse, once, a sure thing. Was 2012 really the last time he was a sure thing?

It was. So let's look at a comparable start from back then. Say, the same team in the same ballpark. How does the stuff compare?

And the start from Wednesday:



I've watched both a couple times in a row, and I'm willing to type it: The stuff's the same. Hey, check out that stuff. It's the same stuff. The schoolchildren are all "Nice stuff, same-stuff" as they giggle and run away.

Which doesn't mean that Cain is automatically an ace again, and the Giants are a gonna win it all this year. Stuff is great, but command is even better, and we don't know if the command is there yet, or if it ever will be. Cain was always supposed to be an outlier when it came to xFIP, and maybe that can't continue in the don't-give-a-rip-about-strikeouts era, where hitters think about dingers first and contact 43rd. There are still so many questions with Cain.

Before the season, though, if you had asked me for a path the Giants' rotation could take to be above-average, it would have been something like this:

  1. Madison Bumgarner doing his thing
  2. Matt Cain returning to form
  3. MYSTERY PITCHER surprising us all

They've got the first one. Chris Heston has given them the third one. Cain resembling the pitcher he was a couple years ago would be something of a tipping point, then. Suddenly, the majority of the rotation would be filled with pitchers you get excited to watch. And then if they trade for someone else, well, shucks, it would be a strength of the team. A strength!

Easy with those dreams for now. Getting excited about six strong innings in Petco is like getting excited about a spring training outing, in that positive events are always welcome, but you know better than to start gambling based on what you've learned. Just pay the mortgage and keep an eye on things, you silly person.

The longstanding point still applies, though. What if Matt Cain is good again? What if, huh?

★★★

The limitations of Baseball-Reference's Play Index are few and far between -- won't you subscribe today? -- but here's something you can't search for: how often an outfielder in Petco Park has turned around in center or right-center, taken two steps, and then stopped because there's no way the ball was staying in the park. Barry Bonds hit four homers there, so I'll guess at least two of them were like that. Left-handed Giants hitters have hit 34 homers at Petco now, and I'm sure some of those were no-doubters.

(Dale Thayer has now allowed the most homers at Petco to left-handed Giants batters, with four, so chew on that, lolololol sorry.)

That doesn't mean it isn't weird, though, to see a left-hander hit a ball that makes the outfielder stop and say, "Eh, not right now."

Brandon Belt had one of those homers. It didn't clear the fence by that much, really, but watching the body language of outfielders on any homer is half the fun. If you're not doing that already, I can't recommend it enough.

The best part was that the homer came after a disputed third strike that was obviously not a strike. From Brooks Baseball (from the catcher's perspective):

belt

It would have been one of those weenie calls that plague left-handed hitters only for whatever reason. I hate those calls. Instead, Belt used his good eye (he had two walks on the day, too) to set up the heavy stick.

The official position of McCovey Chronicles has not changed: Let Brandon Belt call his own balls and strikes. Put him on the honor system, and everyone will be better off. We will not budge on this.

★★★

The Giants have hit more home runs in Petco Park this year than they have in any other ballpark, including Coors. Their nine dingers at Petco this season is two more than they hit in 2007 and 2008 combined.

I'm getting fond of this new Petco Park. Don't pull the bait-and-switch on us, Padres.