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. 

Regulars in lineup continue to scuffle, Giants end up with series split

Regulars in lineup continue to scuffle, Giants end up with series split

SAN FRANCISCO — The momentum generated by Christian Arroyo and Michael Morse late Wednesday night lasted just a few hours. By the end of this four-game series, the Giants were left with a harsh reality: Even with two injections of new blood, they are not hitting. 

Arroyo drove in another run Thursday, but that was it for a lineup that couldn’t support Matt Moore’s effort. The bullpen, which had kept Bruce Bochy’s guys in close games all series, finally broke in the 10th. The Dodgers walked away with a 5-1 win and a split of a series that was rather uninspiring for both sides. 

After scoring 10 runs on the last road trip, the Giants scored just eight during the four games against the Dodgers. Three of those RBI came from Arroyo, called up Monday. A fourth came from Morse, called up Wednesday.

“We’ve got to get this offense going,” Bochy said. “It’s a better offense than what we’re doing right now. You need to find a way to put a few runs on the board. We had our chances, we just couldn’t find ways to get the big hit.”

With Denard Span out for at least another week, Bochy moved Hunter Pence to the top of the lineup. His temporary No. 3 hitter against lefties, Eduardo Nuñez, has one hit in his last 20 at-bats. Buster Posey, the cleanup hitter, is batting .357, but he has driven in just three runs this month. With two on and one out in the eighth, he bounced into a double play. The production closer to the bottom of the order has been nonexistent, leading to constant shuffling that has moved Nuñez and Belt to left at times. Bochy said the staff will continue to search of a lineup that works. 

“You talk about it and do thing to adjust, and it will get better, but right now we’ve got some guys who aren’t swinging the bat well, to be honest,” he said. “You look at the order and we don’t have a lot of guys swinging well.”

The list does not include Arroyo, the rookie who will eventually have to deal with adjustments from pitchers. It doesn’t appear that’ll be a problem. Arroyo has been making adjustments from at-bat to at-bat. He did so against Sergio Romo for his first career homer and said he learned about the depth of Julio Urias’ curveball during their first two battles Thursday. In the sixth, the 21-year-old Arroyo drove in the game-tying run against the 20-year-old Urias. The lefty had walked Posey to face Arroyo, who singled up the middle. 

“He handles himself so well,” Bochy said. “They walked Buster and he smokes the ball. This kid has shown he’s not in awe. The upper deck, the bright lights, he comes to play.”

Arroyo’s effort briefly backed Moore, who was sharp in seven innings. Moore struck out eight, six of them looking, but he didn’t get much help and the bullpen fell apart in the 10th with a series of walks.

Bochy challenged his starters on Saturday at Coors Field and they responded with a strong series back home. The bullpen was tested during the first week but — Thursday’s result aside — it has settled down. The Giants are not as worried about their pitching as they were as they flew back from Denver. They know, however, that this team is going nowhere if two runs per game continues to be the nightly output. 

“We’ll tweak it again,” Bochy said of his lineup. “We'll see if we can get this thing right.”

Instant Replay: Moore tosses gem, but Giants lose to Dodgers in extras

Instant Replay: Moore tosses gem, but Giants lose to Dodgers in extras


SAN FRANCISCO — Quietly over the past couple of weeks, Bruce Bochy’s bullpen had started to settle. Bochy praised the group before Thursday’s game, noting that roles were being defined by pitchers who entered the series finale with the Dodgers with a 0.94 collective ERA this season. That changed in the 10th inning Thursday.

Three relievers combined to give up four runs on four walks and three singles. The implosion ended with a 5-1 loss to the Dodgers and a split of this four-game series. 

For most of the game, this was a day when youth shined. Corey Seager celebrated his 23rd birthday with a solo homer in the first on a two-strike pitch from Matt Moore that caught the heart of the plate. The Giants will be dealing with Seager for years, and if all goes according to plan, there will be years of Julio Urias vs. Christian Arroyo battles, too. 

The 21-year-old third baseman won the first matchup, lining a single to center. Arroyo flew out in his second at-bat against the 20-year-old Urias, but they faced off a third time in a big spot. Brandon Belt drew a one-out walk in the sixth and went to third when a pickoff throw skipped down the line. After an intentional walk of Buster Posey, Arroyo lined another one back up the middle. Urias stuck his glove up but it ticked off and into center for a game-tying single. 

Arroyo ended the young lefty’s day. Moore was done after seven sparkling innings. He struck out eight, six of them looking. 

The game went to extras, and Cory Gearrin walked pinch-hitter Adrian Gonzalez to lead off the 10th. Chase Utley was called up to bunt but he couldn’t get it down. Instead, he hit an infield single off Steven Okert that stayed true to the third-base line. After a walk of Yasmani Grandal, the third straight pinch-hitter, Andrew Toles lined a single to center to give the Dodgers a lead and the wheels soon came off. 

Utley alertly tagged up and scored on a pop-up to foul territory. Justin Turner’s single extended the lead to three and Hunter Strickland’s four-pitch walk of Chris Taylor pushed another across. 

Starting pitching report: Moore gave up 19 hits and 11 earned runs in his two previous starts, but the Dodgers had just two hits, the Seager homer and a Chris Taylor single. Taylor reached third with one out, but Moore got Scott Van Slyke and Cody Bellinger to go down looking. 

Bullpen report: Mark Melancon came on in a non-save situation for a second straight day and pitched a scoreless ninth. 

At the plate: Buster Posey’s hitting streak ended at 12 games. He twice bounced into double plays.

In the field: Posey chased a high pop-up down the right field line in the fourth, but he was going to come up short. Kelby Tomlinson came out of nowhere with the helping hand, making a running catch near the visiting bullpen. Posey smiled and shook his head as Tomlinson whipped the ball back to the infield. 

Attendance: The Giants said they sold out a 500th consecutive game.

Up next: The Giants have a three-city road trip coming up, so it’s time to take advantage of a weekend at home against the Padres. Jeff Samardzija and Luis Perdomo get the opener.