PHOENIX – Matt Cain insisted he didn’t do anything different between starts, aside from a few tweaks here and there.
He did look at video of his strange outing against the St. Louis Cardinals last Saturday with Giants manager Bruce Bochy, just to see if he was doing anything to telegraph pitches in that seven-run inning. He and Bochy both said they didn’t find anything.
It would be so much easier if they had. Then Cain’s first dozen starts could be explained away. The most effective way to treat an illness is to diagnose it, right?
But when you look at Cain’s starts pitch by pitch and inning by inning, there is only one explanation for the 5.45 ERA on the scoreboard as he took the mound at Chase Field Friday night: He was making too many mistakes over the plate, hanging too many curveballs, getting too many cutters to cut across the plate.
He did get away with a few mistakes Friday night, including two that Paul Goldschmidt was kind enough to turn into 700 feet of foul flies. But in a hitter-friendly yard, Cain held the Diamondbacks to four hits, took a shutout into the eighth inning and didn’t allow a home run. It was his fourth consecutive start in which he didn’t give one up. He’d allowed 13 in seven starts before that.
“We might have done some little things to get balls to locations I wanted to,” said Cain, who credited pitching coaches Dave Righetti and Mark Gardner. “That was really it. You can get in your own way when you overdo things. You just try to work on little things and Rags and Gardy did a great job of helping me with that.”
Cain even managed to hold serve with Patrick Corbin despite a tight strike zone from umpire Alan Porter. Cain, who walked three in the first inning, had a few choice words as he walked off the mound. He also stood as still as one of the Burghers of Calais in the batter’s box after Porter called an outside pitch on him in his second at-bat.
Cain will never rip an umpire. But he finds a way to say what he wants.
“I wasn’t all over the place,” he said of the first inning. “Some of the pitches weren’t that far off. It’s just making an adjustment to get them more in the strike zone. We just tried to put the first inning behind us.”
Even though the game ended with a loss and another drop in the standings, in the long run, getting Cain back on point will make a huge difference for this club. They take so many of their cues from the rotation, and that rotation takes so many of its cues from Cain.
It wasn’t just the results. It was the way Cain competed that seemed so familiar.
“He got settled in there and threw quality strikes, hitting spots, using all his pitches,” Bochy said. “That’s quite a job he did in this ballpark. I like where he’s at now and how he’s throwing the ball.”
Chad Gaudin is officially listed to start on Sunday. The Giants notes had been listed as TBA.
That means Tim Lincecum will pitch Tuesday in Pittsburgh.
Lincecum could face Gerrit Cole, the first overall pick in the 2011 draft. It’s rumored that the Pirates will promote Cole to make his major league debut on Tuesday.
That’ll be very interesting for Brandon Crawford, since his sister is Cole’s girlfriend.
They all attended UCLA and Brandon hosted Cole on his recruiting visit. Amy Crawford, who played softball for the Bruins, began dating Cole the following year.
“I’ll be happy for him, definitely,” Brandon said. “It might be a little weird or whatever for the first at-bat, or, I wouldn’t even say that. Maybe the first pitch. Once I step in the box, it’s about baseball and the competition.”
He wouldn’t stop to wonder whether Amy is rooting for her boyfriend or her brother?
“She’ll probably have one of those half-and-half hats,” he said.
Giants and Pirates. Not sure those exist. Is Amy any good at arts and crafts?
“She might have made one, actually,” he said.
The Giants went heavy on college pitchers in the second day of the draft. Mike Krukow likely has a new favorite protégé after the Giants took right-handed reliever Chase Johnson with their third-round pick (101st overall) out of Cal Poly-SLO.
They went a little closer to home in the fourth round when they took Stanford’s Brian Ragira, a power-hitting all-Pac-12 first baseman. Another college reliever, right-hander Daniel Slania from Notre Dame, was the Giants’ choice in the fifth round. Slania led the Cape Cod League with 10 saves last summer and had a 1.21 ERA for the Fighting Irish. UCLA right-hander Rick Vander Tuig, a starting pitcher who is still competing in the College World Series, went in the sixth round.
The next two picks were college position players: shortstop Brandon Bednar from Florida Gulf Coast University and left fielder Tyler Horan from Virginia Tech. The Giants finished the second day with two more college pitchers: Minnesota left-hander Donald Snelten and Austin Peay right-hander Tyler Rogers.
There’s a lot of attention paid to the first round or two, for obvious reasons. But the Giants have been pretty good about finding value in the middle rounds, so it’ll be interesting to see how quickly these college players sign and where they are as they begin their pro careers.
Leaving you with a bit of good news: Umpire Jerry Layne, who left Friday’s game, aggravated a rib injury. That’s a lot better than some of the alternative explanations that leap to mind when you see a guy clutch his chest.