Giants entrust Cain to usher in another reign

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Giants entrust Cain to usher in another reign

Programming note: Tune in to SportsNet Central's OctoberQuest at 4 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area. We'll take you all the way up to first pitch at 5:07 p.m. with all the pregame news, stats, updates and analysis. It's Game 4 of the World Series!

DETROIT Matt Cain takes the mound for the Giants in Game 4of the World Series Sunday night, and central casting couldnt have found amore suitable man for this assignment.

Cain has done all right in these clinching games thispostseason, if you havent noticed. He started and won Game 5 of the NLDS inCincinnati and Game 7 of the NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals.

RELATED: San Francisco Giants 2012 World Series page

It will be a much different tenor at chilly Comerica Park, though. Its not a winner-take-all game.Far from it. The Giants are comfortably ahead and looking to complete a World Series sweep somethingthey havent done since that iconic 1954 series over the Cleveland Indians thatincluded Willie Mays indelible basket catch.

But dont expect any letdown from Cain, whose competitiongoes beyond a Detroit Tigers lineup capable of hurting him with the home runball at any time.

Cain is also locked in friendly competition with hisrotation mates, who have held the Tigers to a grand sum of one run over theirfirst three starts something that no major league team has done since the NewYork Giants Christy Mathewson and Iron Man Bill McGinnity in 1905.

Incredibly, Giants starters are 6-0 with a 0.47 ERA overtheir last six games. That helps explain how they havent trailed in 54consecutive innings a streak that began with Game 5 of the NLCS. Theyve ledat the conclusion of 44 of those innings.

And the Tigers havent even seen Cain the guy who threw aperfect game in June, received the honor to start the All-Star Game for theNational League in July and has been the Giants most consistent winner allseason.

Weve carried over what we had done in the last coupleseries into this series, and thats good, Cain said. Our guys are having funand were relaxed and focused on what we need to do. We know those guys on theother side are doing the same thing. Theyre going to be gunning for us.

Cain might be a better matchup for the Tigers because hesbeen a bit home run prone in the postseason. He allowed four homers over hisfirst three playoff starts, and although he held the Cards scoreless in hisfinal NLCS outing, it was apparent he had trouble keeping his fastball belowthe belt.

Giants officials privately worried about Cains heavyworkload, which stands at 242 13 innings especially after he threw 244 23innings in 2010. Cain is making his fifth postseason start; he made just threeduring the Giants run to the World Series title two seasons ago.

Thats one of the reasons that Giants manager Bruce Bochydidnt move Cain up to third in the World Series rotation. In a concession toRyan Vogelsongs crisper stuff, and the desire to get Cain one extra day ofrest, the Giants stayed with Vogelsong in Game 3.

The consequence: Itd be Vogelsong, not Cain, in a possibleGame 7. But Cain said he didnt bristle at being limited to one World Seriesstart.

No, I mean, I was going to take the ball whenever theywanted me to take it, and thats always been my way, Cain said. Whenever theywant me to pitch, Im going to take it. Take the ball, go out there and try tofind a way to win.

Itll start by keeping Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder inthe ballpark something the Giants have done extremely well while holding thetwin titans in the Tigers lineup to 3 for 17 with no extra-base hits and thesame number of RBI (one) that Barry Zito has in this series.

Cabrera is 1 for 6 against Cain, with a home run for hisonly hit. Fielder is a .278 hitter (5 for 18) with a couple of doubles but nohome runs. Omar Infante is the only other Tigers player with much experienceagainst Cain; hes also 5 for 18, all singles, and two strikeouts.

Itll be hard for Cain to match strikeouts with right-handerMax Scherzer, who finished second in that category among AL pitchers toteammate Justin Verlander. Itll be up to Scherzer to put this series inVerlanders hands for Game 5.

Scherzer has missed plenty of bats this postseason, strikingout 18 in just 11 innings. But surprise surprise, Marco Scutaro has just onestrikeout against him while going 4 for 9 in his career.

The Giants would do well to think back to July 2 of lastyear, when they faced Scherzer in an interleague game at Comerica Park andbattered him in a five-run first inning. Pablo Sandoval hit a two-run shot inthat game and Brandon Crawford followed with a three-run homer as the Giantswon in a 15-3 rout.

Scherzer has been a different pitcher this season,especially in the second half. He was 11-3 with a 2.53 ERA over his last 19starts, including 143 strikeouts in 117 13 innings. He credited an adjustmentwith his fastball that makes him able to locate it inside against left-handedhitters and away to right-handers. (Hes been especially tough on right-handedhitters, holding them to a .201 average vs. .292 against lefties.)

Once Im able to drive my fastball to the glove side, firstbase side for you guys, it sets up all my other pitches my slider, mychangeup, Scherzer said. Thats why Ive been effective of late.

The hour is very, very late for the Tigers now.

But every game you pitch in the World Series is a must-wingame, Scherzer said. So what better opportunity than the one I have?

The Giants feel just as enthused about the pitcher theyresending to the mound.

I think your great players seem to play better when theclub needs them, Bochy said. The higher the stakes, the more they do toelevate their game. Thats hitters and pitchers, and I certainly would put MattCain in that class."

Pablo Sandoval admits he did not work hard after signing with Red Sox

Pablo Sandoval admits he did not work hard after signing with Red Sox

In late November 2014, Pablo Sandoval signed a 5-year contract with the Red Sox that includes $95 million guaranteed.

In 2015, he hit just .245 with 10 home runs and 47 RBI over 126 games.

Last year, he appeared in just three games before his season came to an end.

"My career had fallen into an abyss because I was so complacent with things that I had already accomplished," Sandoval recently said to ESPN. "I did not work hard in order to achieve more and to remain at the level of the player that I am and that I can be."

Sandoval underwent season-ending shoulder surgery in early May, but he wasn't going to be the Red Sox's starting third baseman.

[RELATED: Report: Evans 'not aware of any consideration of a reunion' with Pablo]

He lost his job to Travis Shaw.

"Things definitely happen for a reason," Sandoval said. "(The surgery and rehab process) have helped revitalize that fire in me to win again."

Sandoval was a two-time All-Star with the Giants and was named the 2012 World Series MVP.

In 2014, he racked up 26 hits in the playoffs, breaking the single-postseason record.

He's battled weight issues his entire career, but is working hard on his body to keep things under control.

"I have been following a really strict routine that has taken a lot of dedication from my part," Sandoval said. "It has not been easy to wake up every single day at 6:30 in the morning to then head to the gym and start a full day of work.

"But you have to have that kind of dedication if you want to achieve the goals you have set for yourself ... I am not taking anything for granted. I am here to work hard. I'm not thinking about the position or not. I am starting from scratch, and I am here to show what I can do on the field."

The Red Sox won the AL East last year and after trading for Chris Sale this week, have the second best odds of winning the 2017 World Series.

"One of the keys for us is going to be Panda," Boston manager John Farrell said at the winter meetings on Monday. "That's not to put it all on him, but here's a left-handed bat who is a proven guy and has every opportunity to make a major impact on our team this year."
 

Joe Maddon thankful Cubs didn't have to face Johnny Cueto in Game 5

Joe Maddon thankful Cubs didn't have to face Johnny Cueto in Game 5

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- In an October 25 post on his team-run blog, shortstop Brandon Crawford said he didn't watch the NLCS. 

"The World Series starts tonight," Crawford wrote. "I won’t be watching."

Crawford was hardly alone in that respect. Many of the Giants avoided baseball in the weeks after a crushing NLDS loss to the Chicago Cubs. In an interview with CSN Bay Area on Tuesday -- two months after his season ended -- manager Bruce Bochy said the defeat was the "toughest game I’ve ever had to bounce back off of." There's little good that comes in looking back, and yet, the loss will forever be part of the organization's history. You take the bad with the good. It will also be a huge part of Chicago's story about the first title in 108 years. 

The Cubs have not forgotten how hard it was to cross the first hurdle. Those close to the team say the potential of having a Game 5 at home is brought up often within the organization. A Cubs executive said Joe Maddon mentioned Johnny Cueto during a front office gathering leading up to the Winter Meetings, saying he is still grateful that he didn't have to face Cueto and Madison Bumgarner in a must-win game at what would have been a nervous Wrigley Field. During his Winter Meetings press conference on Tuesday, Maddon again brought up that thought without being asked.

A reporter asked him what stood out about the World Series as Maddon drove home for the winter. He pivoted to a different round. 

"It wasn't that (the World Series), it was Game 4 against San Francisco," Maddon said. "We did not want to see Game 5. I thought facing Cueto in Game 5 would be the most difficult thing we had to do. I thought it was necessary that we won Game 4 in San Francisco to progress as well as we did. I was more focused on that win than anything else."

That won't help much for a Giants organization still feeling the sting of a blown three-run lead. To a man, from team executives to scouts to coaches to players, the Giants are sure that they would have won in Chicago with Cueto and Bumgarner throwing every pitch. Vice president of baseball operations Brian Sabean confirmed Wednesday that Bumgarner was ready to reprise the role he played in Game 7 of the World Series two years ago. 

"Everything at that point was 'the kitchen sink' and we've seen Boch operate under those circumstances and we've seen our players step up," Sabean said.

The Giants always intended on pursuing Mark Melancon -- they tried at the trade deadline and came up short -- but the Game 4 collapse was the final straw. It became 100 percent clear that there was no other way forward. The Giants could not rely on in-house options or a second-tier free agent. Melancon signed a four-year, $62 million deal on Monday that the Giants hope will prevent another first-round exit. 

"It became pretty obvious to the ball club, obviously, and moreso our fan base," Sabean said. "It was our greatest need and a huge move ... You have to win the games you're supposed to win."