Cain goes five strong, solidifies hold on rotation spot

Cain goes five strong, solidifies hold on rotation spot

SAN FRANCISCO — Matt Cain has tried not to think about his tenuous hold on a rotation spot, and the organization would never come out publicly and say a pitcher is out there on a start-by-start basis. But there was no hiding the fact that the Giants have for weeks pinpointed next week as a potentially big one for the back of the rotation. 

Cain’s spot could have been skipped, and had he gotten off to an awful start this month, that could have been the first of many changes. Instead, Cain will start Tuesday in Kansas City, manager Bruce Bochy said. That was solidified with five sharp innings in a 6-2 win over the Diamondbacks.

“I think you have to (change your thinking), the way he threw the ball,” Bochy said. “His command, he had four pitches going tonight, he had a good curveball along with the changeup and the fastball command. If you look at his last few games, here he gives up a run but he just bowed his neck and went out there and pitched very well. He found a way to get it done.

“I thought that was just a huge outing for him and a good one to build on.”

Cain scattered five hits and walked three. All six of his strikeouts came during a dominant 10-batter stretch after a shaky first inning. After two years of barely contributing at the plate, Cain got the Giants going with a double off Shelby Miller. He raced home from second on Denard Span’s hard single to center. Cain started to run out of gas in the sixth, but when he put the first two on, Cory Gearrin entered and struck out three straight. For the bullpen, this night meant just a tad bit more than your average April win. Cain has greeted every one of these guys, whether they’re coming in as free agents or coming up as rookies.

“It was awesome,” Gearrin said. “He did everything tonight that you can do. He’s hitting doubles in the gap and pitching outstanding. It’s fun for us as a bullpen to come off of that. He really set the tone tonight.”

Cain’s final line was not dominant, but it was plenty for a fifth starter. In this rotation, that’s all the Giants are asking of Cain. They need Ty Blach in their bullpen and they need Tyler Beede to get some more seasoning, and Bochy believes that Cain’s continued presence in the rotation can pay big dividends down the line. On Wednesday, he compared him to Barry Zito. 

“This is something that he’s earned when you look at what he’s done for us,” Bochy said. “We’ve got some championships because of this guy. I’m going back to Barry Zito and he had his ups and downs. We stayed with him and he helped win us a World Series with those starts in St. Louis and Detroit. I feel the same way about Matty."

--- The bullpen struck out six in four innings, and nobody was sharper than Gearrin. He was very, very happy to be back in San Francisco, where the thick air allows him to shape the ball in ways that simply aren’t possible in Arizona. Gearrin threw one two-seamer that moved so much it was categorized as a slider by Pitch F/X.

--- On a normal night, Nick Hundley’s seventh-inning blast to right would have been the rare right-handed homer into the arcade. On a normal night, Jarrett Parker’s shot might have cleared the kale out there in center field. They settled for a double and triple, respectively. Bochy was especially enthused by Parker’s swing, the best one he’s taken all season. 

“Good for Park,” he said. “I think he’s been pressing a little bit. Against the wind, that ball was crushed. Hopefully that gets his confidence back. It’s tough for these kids. When the season starts, there’s more attention to the numbers and guys can press a little bit.”

--- If you missed the pre-game show, Tim Flannery and Matt Williams had one of the best inside-baseball conversations you’ll see on TV while talking about signs at third base. You can watch the whole thing here. 

Latest round of bullpen auditions go poorly in Giants' 50th loss

Latest round of bullpen auditions go poorly in Giants' 50th loss

SAN FRANCISCO -- Practically speaking, the 50th loss is no different than the one before or the one after, but this sport is built on milestones, and this one came quickly.

The Giants lost their 50th game on August 12 last year. This season, it was clinched when Ryder Jones grounded out in his fourth career at-bat, handing the Mets a 5-2 win on June 24. 

Bruce Bochy called losing 50 of your first 77 games "hard to believe" and "embarrassing." Johnny Cueto, who went seven strong, said the reality was "hard and sad." Brandon Belt, who got Cueto off the hook for a loss, agreed with his manager.

"That's a pretty good word to use -- it is embarrassing to come out and lose every day, especially with the group of guys we have," Belt said. "When you're losing as much as this, it is embarrassing. We're trying to do whatever we can to turn this thing around."

Lately, that has meant changes to the roster. It is officially audition season, and in that respect, it was not a particularly inspiring day for the bullpen. The Giants felt they would have a better mix this year, but it hasn't played out. Instead, they're once again trying to find pieces for the next successful Giants bullpen.

With Hunter Strickland suspended and Derek Law in the minors, two young relievers, a middle-innings stalwart, and a newcomer pitched the final two frames. They gave up four runs.

Sam Dyson was the first on the mound in the eighth. Belt had homered a few minutes earlier, tying a good starter's duel. Dyson gave up a leadoff triple to Curtis Granderson and walked Asdrubal Cabrera before throwing two good sliders past Yoenis Cespedes for the strikeout. With two lefties coming up and the go-ahead run still on third, Bochy turned to Steven Okert. He immediately gave up a seeing-eye RBI single to Jay Bruce. Wilmer Flores doubled off George Kontos later in the frame to make it 3-1. 

In the ninth, Kyle Crick showed some of the wildness that kept him in the minors for seven years. He, too, gave up a leadoff triple, a sin you always pay for. A walk helped put another run into scoring position and a wild pitch extended the Mets’ lead to four. 

Before the game, Bochy talked of getting an extended look at Jones. He was 0-for-4 in his first big league game but he’ll be back out there tomorrow. It’s time to fight for a job, and the same holds true of some relievers who didn’t fare well Saturday. It is a group with a closer locked into a longterm deal and little else decided. 

Are Strickland or Law eighth-inning guys? Will Dyson be a worthwhile reclamation project? Will Kontos be back, and will he carve out a different role? Are Okert and Josh Osich capable of giving Bochy lefties he trusts? Is Crick’s improvement in Triple-A a sign of things to come? There are many questions to be answered over the next three months. 

“This is a good time for them, this is what players get up here for, to show what they can do,” Bochy said. “Because of our situation, we’re going to take a look at these guys and we know there are going to be growing pains.”

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' 50th loss of the season

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' 50th loss of the season


SAN FRANCISCO — The promotion of an intriguing prospect can bring a certain buzz to the ballpark. It didn’t last long. 

The debut of Ryder Jones came in the latest flat performance from the Giants, who collapsed late and fell 5-2 to the Mets. The loss was their 50th of the season. They did not lose their 50th game last season until August 12. 

With the score tied in the eighth, Curtis Granderson crushed a leadoff triple into the alley. Sam Dyson walked the next batter and then whiffed Yoenis Cespedes, but Jay Bruce greeted Steven Okert with an RBI single to right. It kept going poorly from there. 

Here are five things to know from a cool day by the water … 

—- Jones grounded out to second in his first at-bat and then flied out to center, grounded out to first, and grounded out to second. He had one chance in the field, starting a double play that ended the second inning.  

—- Johnny Cueto seems to have turned a corner. Over his past two starts, he has allowed just three earned runs over 14 innings. Whether they trade him or not, the Giants certainly could use a nice little hot streak for the next six weeks. 

—- A few seconds after Bruce Bochy shook Cueto’s hand, Brandon Belt got him off the hook for a loss. He hit the first pitch of the bottom of the seventh into the seats in left-center, tying the game. The homer was Belt’s 14th. He’s on pace for 29. 

—- The Mets got eight one-run innings out of Jacob deGrom, who is quietly the most reliable of a star-studded rotation. He struck out seven and gave up just four hits. 

—- If Madison Bumgarner wants another Silver Slugger Award, he’ll have to chase down deGrom, who hit a homer in his last start. His single in the third was his 10th hit, and he finished the day with a .294 average.