Pagan on homerun: 'I needed that one'
Marco Scutaro extended his hitting streak to 10 games on Friday, driving in two runs in the process.
SAN FRANCISCO – As investments go, Matt Cain is a U.S. Treasury Note.
Slow and steady, if not too exciting. And remarkably reliable.
So even when Cain had his early-season struggles along with others in the Giants rotation, you knew in the end you could take him to the bank. The right-hander appears to be turning a corner, and his timing was impeccable in an 8-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves Friday night.
With the bullpen good and spent, Cain came within three outs of the first complete game by a Giant this season. And he was more than effective enough –- just three hits in eight innings -- to outpitch Tim Hudson, a bulldog whom the Giants hadn’t beaten in almost seven years.
The Giants hectored Hudson for six runs in the fourth inning, with Marco Scutaro accounting for two singles in the inning – including the two-run line drive that knocked his former A’s teammate from the game.
It was the kind of outpouring Cain had seldom seen this season. But it was far from an easy night. Cain had to show his toughness in the second inning, when he took a hard shot off his right hip but recovered to make a sliding, slinging throw to first base for a remarkable out.
After one warmup pitch under the supervision of manager Bruce Bochy and head athletic trainer Dave Groeschner, Cain stayed in the game. He’s thoughtful that way.
Starting pitching report
There are nights this season when a Giants starting pitcher appeared to have terrific stuff but the results just didn’t match. This was not one of those nights.
Cain seemed to have more movement on his two-seam fastball, he maintained 93 mph into the seventh inning and he seldom had to rescue himself when behind in the count.
He only paid for one mistake, when Brian McCann followed a walk to Dan Uggla by slugging a 3-2 fastball for his second home run in as many days. The shot came with the Giants leading by six runs, so Cain was pitching to the score by staying aggressive.
The Braves didn’t have many other opportunities. Cain’s second to last pitch in the eighth inning, his 113th of the night, was a 92 mph fastball with movement. And he walked off the mound to a rousing ovation.
The Giants have won three consecutive Cain starts after beginning the season 0-5 in his assignments.
He is 2-0 with a 1.76 ERA in May after going 0-2 with a 6.49 ERA in April.
One night after he threw 40 pitches in two innings, George Kontos vowed that his arm felt strong enough for another appearance. He retired one of his two batters in the ninth, then Javier Lopez went the rest of the way.
At the plate
If you were to create a staff of Giant killers, Clayton Kershaw would be the ace and Cliff Lee, the World Series aside, would be a solid No.2. But Hudson would be somewhere in the mix. The Giants hadn’t beaten him since April 6, 2006. He had been 6-0 with a 2.48 ERA in nine starts since then.
It looked like more of the same Friday night, as the Giants managed just a single from Brandon Crawford the first time through the order.
But Scutaro extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a leadoff single in the fourth, and before the inning ended, the suddenly hot second baseman would add another hit. The Giants sent 11 batters to the plate while setting season highs in hits (seven) and runs (six).
Pablo Sandoval singled and held at third base on Buster Posey’s double to the wall in left-center. Hunter Pence followed by dribbling an infield single that scored Sandoval to make it 2-0. Then Brandon Belt roped an RBI double down the right field line.
Pence, doing something only he could do, slid into second base and then ran on to third.
The Giants weren’t done. Crawford drew a one-out intentional walk but Cain foiled the strategy by hitting a bases-loaded single to make it 4-0. Then Scutaro’s two-out hit plated two more.
Angel Pagan added a two-run home run, his second of the season, in the sixth inning to set off the steam cannons – and shoo away the seagulls just as they began to populate center field.
Pagan couldn’t catch Justin Upton’s double near the wall in the sixth inning, but Cain pitched out of the jam. The outfield defense provided an assist in the seventh, though, when Pence made a diving, tumbling catch of Dan Uggla’s blooper.
Cain’s play on McCann stood as the gem of the night, though. The pitcher didn’t hesitate after getting struck by the comebacker. He immediately chased after the ball, which he fielded near the first base line, and then angled a throw around McCann to the foul side of the bag. Belt reacted well to the awkward play and kept his foot on the bag whiel stretching to make the catch.
Cain grimaced and put his hands on his knees after the play, but walked off the pain. Because that’s what Matt Cain does.
The Giants announced 41,387 – another official sellout, of course. The impressive part: The park looked mostly full on a night the Warriors were playing host to a second-round playoff game.
The Giants and Braves play the third game of this four-game series Saturday afternoon at AT&T Park. Madison Bumgarner (3-1, 2.31) will oppose left-hander Paul Maholm (4-3, 3.09). First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. PDT.