Matt Cain struggled in the first inning and I started to write his obituary. He gave up a booming triple and a couple walks and was in trouble. He managed to work his way out of it, but it was Bad Cain. It was clearly just a matter of time until he imploded and cost the team the game, and Ty Blach was going to have to pick up at least three innings, and preferably four or five, and the offense was going to scratch and claw, and they’d get within 2 by the ninth inning, and then they’d score one run and lose. It was all so clear.
But somehow that never happened. He wasn’t Matt Cain from 2009-2012, but he was a major league quality pitcher, and he was fun to watch. When Cain’s going bad, he gets ahead of hitters and then fails to put them away; tonight, he put them away. When Cain’s going bad, innings take on a life of their own, twisting themselves into knots and taunting Giants fans with their refusal to end; tonight, he pitched through an error and a couple leadoff hits without any innings spinning out of control. When Cain’s going bad, the fifth inning is a Lovecraftian horror show; tonight, all he gave up was a two out single, after which he got Paul Goldschmidt to ground out to end it.
In short, Cain did a very good job, so here are the caveats: he had good starts last year too. He had some starts that were better than this, in fact. This one start doesn’t mean he’s back, and it doesn’t mean he won’t often frustrate you this year. But it is a good start, and one good Matt Cain start tonight is better than zero good Matt Cain starts tonight, so for now, let’s appreciate him.
Also, he doubled and scored the Giants’ first run, because like hell was he gonna let himself be Cained in this one.
They added on. Last year, every time the Giants rallied from behind to take the lead, they seemed to tie the game with a hit, take a one run lead with another, and stop. Tonight, they got that third hit. More specifically, Conor Gillaspie, who’s apparently now a clutch god, lined a single up the middle, and then instead of being up 2-1, the Giants were up 3-1.
Two innings later, they added on again. Brandon Crawford walked, advanced to second on a wild pitch, and then scored on a Nick Hundley double off the bricks in right. Two batters later, Jarrett Parker drove in another two runs with a triple that hit high off the wall, that on most other, non-rainy, nights would have been a homer. With the bullpen’s shaky recent history, every insurance run is important for this team, and they should all be treated like the beautiful treasures they are.
There will be a day this year, and if we’re being honest probably a lot of days, that Bochy leaving a starter in for a couple batters too long comes back to bite him. Today was not that day, and for that, let’s thank Cory Gearrin.
Gearrin came in with two on and no one out, and faced Brandon Drury, Chris Owings, and Jeff Mathis, and struck them all out. That’s underselling how impressive he was; he made them all look silly chasing Romo-esque sliders. That comparison, just to be clear, came from Mike Krukow, not me, so that’s how you know it’s actually good baseball analysis.
But it was a gorgeous pitch, and Drury missed it by two feet at one point, and if Cory Gearrin would like to become Peak Sergio Romo this year, we could probably all be talked into that.
With 2 out, one on, and a 3-1 lead, George Kontos threw a 1-2 hanger to Paul Goldschmidt in the top of the 7th, and the Giants got lucky Goldschmidt didn’t tie the game. Instead, he fouled it back, then hit a comebacker two pitches later, and that was it for the inning. This isn’t to say that Kontos is bad or that he pitched badly, but that’s the kind of thing that happens to normal bullpens all the time. A pitcher throws a bad pitch in a big situation and a hitter misses it. When the Giants bullpen is going bad, they make baseball look easy for the other team. It’s not easy. It’s never easy.
I have to believe that this is a talented bullpen and they can’t possibly keep going the way they did last year and for the first week this year. Tonight was a good night from the bullpen against a team that has a lot of really good hitters. Let’s see more of this in the future and less of (glances scornfully at Opening Day in Arizona) that.
If Derek Law would like to stop giving up runs, though, I’d sure appreciate it.
Quietly sassy Joe Panik just might be the best Joe Panik.