Cain perfect when it mattered most against Angels

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Cain perfect when it mattered most against Angels

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ANAHEIM Turns out Matt Cain wasnt so perfect last weekafter all.

He took a shot to the left wrist while gutting out a win inthe Giants 5-3 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Monday, and whenreporters asked where the ball struck him, he pointed just below an ugly redwelt.

No, not that, Cain said. Thats a waffle burn.

A what?

Buster saw it and was, Jeez! Cain continued. I said no,thats a waffle burn. I was reaching for something else. I found out the waffleiron was on and its hot.

OK, fine. Cain can get a bit Affeldtian in the kitchen. Don't trust him to prepare your yolks just so on your Eggs Benedict.

But on the mound? Even on a night when he was far fromperfect, he still found a way to elevate his game at precisely the rightmoments.

Cain walked four and allowed six hits in five innings, yethe held a havoc-wreaking lineup to three runs. To accomplish that, he needed toexecute a pitch against career nemesis Albert Pujols with the bases loaded inthe fourth inning. He needed to make a play on a one-hop piece of shrapnel hitback to the mound. And he needed to fight to his very last pitch to coax hisway through the fifth.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy could tell from the outset thatCain didnt have it. Theright-hander had thrown 125 high-stress pitches in Wednesdays historic perfectgame the most ever thrown in a perfecto and he was giving it everything hehad in the ninth while hitting 94 mph on the last pitch.

Im sure he was feeling the residuals from his last start.He had to, Bochy said. Every pitch, its all on the line. I was justsurprised in this game, the gutty effort he gave us.

Oh, I knew early. He was missing spots. But he competes sowell.

Cain didnt cop to a perfect-game hangover or fatigue asmuch as a residual buzz from what hed accomplished.

I was probably a little amped up from it, maybe try to keepit going in a way, said Cain, who threw 100 pitches in five innings. I was alittle energized in general. The whole time I was pitching perhaps higher up ingeneral.

It was definitely a grind-it-out day. A lot of theirswitch-hitter guys were finding holes. I was working on keeping those guyssemi-close at first base. You just try to keep it all in order.

He did, barely. With the Giants clinging to a 4-3 lead,Shane Loux began warming up before Cain issued a leadoff walk to Kendry Moralesin the fifth. Then Cain went 3-0 to Mark Trumbo, who had hit a solo homerearlier in the game.

Hes a pitch away from coming out there, Bochy said. Ifhed have walked him, I wouldve gotten him.

But Cain darted two fastballs for a called strike and afoul. Then he froze Trumbo with a curveball. He retired the next two hitters toget the Giants back in the dugout.

Just like that, Cain qualified for the victory. The Giantsbullpen made sure he got it, too, by taking their own perfect turn. Loux,Sergio Romo, Jeremy Affeldt and Santiago Casilla went 12 up, 12 down.

Just like that, Cain became the first Giant to win eightconsecutive starts since Rick Big Daddy Reuschel in 1989.

Reuschel started the NL All-Star game that year. Cain is makinga case to draw the assignment for the NL this season, although the Mets R.A.Dickey has the league all aflutter with his knuckleball.

Cain wouldnt have won without winning a bases-loaded confrontationwith Pujols, who entered the game with serious career ownage against theright-hander. His first two curveballs missed, but he put a slider on Pujolshands for a foul ball. Then he might have gotten away with a 2-1 curve that gotmore of the plate than Cain wanted. Pujols grounded into a fielders choice.

He has that ability to make a pitch and not give in, Bochysaid. Hes got four pitches and hell throw any pitch at any time. The gameson the line there and he showed great poise. He got it done.

He also showed poise in the fourth after Angels rookiephenom Mike Trout hit his bullet back to the mound. Cain deflected it with hisglove hand, picked it up without hesitation and threw a firm one to BusterPosey for a tag play at the plate.

After the game, Cain dutifully took every question from thenational media about everything from his perfect game to his new Samurai swordto what on Gods sweet earth was going through his mind when he let Affeldthold it.

It might not surprise you, but he was most effusive whenasked about the bullpen.

I was pumped by those guys, coming in and finishing off thegame for me, Cain said. They got 1-2-3 innings when I wasnt able to do that.Its very helpful down the road. Its never good when you start a series andyour starter comes out after five innings.

Five imperfect innings. With the same, winning result.

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants dropping series vs Braves

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants dropping series vs Braves

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SAN FRANCISCO — The kid who raced The Freeze on Thursday night blew a tire as he hit center field, hobbled for about 50 feet, and then went down for good. He still had a better night than the Giants. 

They blew all four tires in the fifth, giving up eight runs in a nightmare frame that turned a two-run lead into a 12-11 loss. The Giants finished 1-7 on the swing through Denver and Atlanta, and they have lost 18 of their last 23 games. 

But, let’s face it, you’re here already. So here are five more things to know from the night … 

—- Matt Cain was hanging in there until the fifth, and then … disaster. The inning started with Brandon Phillips’ solo shot that cut the lead to one. Then it went single, single before Cain was relieved by Bryan Morris. After that, it was single, single, single, sacrifice fly, homer, flyout, walk, single, pitching change, single. 

—- Morris had to wear it in the fifth because the bullpen is short, and boy, did he wear it. Morris gave up five runs on five hits and a walk. His ERA jumped two full points in two-thirds of an inning. 

—- Kyle Crick made his MLB debut in that horrendous bottom of the fifth. The Giants surely did not want to bring him in with runners on, but Bruce Bochy had no choice when Morris blew up. Crick’s first pitch was a 95 mph heater. After giving up a hit in that inning, he pitched a perfect sixth and perfect seventh. Crick topped out at 97 mph. Pretty, pretty good stuff there. He needs to get a long look the rest of this year. 

—- In the second, Buster Posey hit a ball that went 311 feet and had a hit probability of just six percent. Cain hit a ball 357 feet. Posey got a homer that bounced off the top of the wall; Cain just got a double. Baseball is such an odd game.  

—- On a positive note, Javi Lopez, who calls Brandon Belt “Sparky,” repeatedly referred to Posey as Gerald. He’s going to be good at this job. 

Why you shouldn't freak out in June about Cueto's opt-out

Why you shouldn't freak out in June about Cueto's opt-out

SAN FRANCISCO — There’s a very important fact you need to keep in mind when talk of Johnny Cueto’s opt-out comes up, as it so often will over the next six weeks: The Giants always expected him to opt-out after this season, from the moment the ink was dry on the six-year, $130-million contract. 

When you sign at the top of your game and have a chance to hit the market at 31 years old and cash out a second time, you take it. Those are just the rules of professional sports. On the day Cueto was introduced, his agent, Bryce Dixon, said the two-year opt-out was important because they felt Cueto didn’t get a totally fair shot at free agency. 

“Johnny, a little bit unfairly, had a lot of questions about his arm,” Dixon said in December of 2015. “I felt we could reestablish his actual value … He knows he’s as good as (David) Price and (Zack) Greinke, but his situation was a little different.”

The Giants were fine with this, too. The flip side of the opt-out is that if you have the chance to pay a dominant right-hander $46 million over two years, and then escape his mid- to late-thirties, you do it. Every time. You don’t even blink. 

So, here we are, in June of the second year of that deal, with reports that Cueto will opt out. You should take a deep breath because you should have already expected this. But if you didn’t, take comfort in this: By all indications, Cueto has not made a decision, even with the Giants having an unimaginably poor season. 

First of all, Cueto can't make a decision in June. What if the blisters return and he repeats his April ERA a couple more times? What if his elbow starts barking? There are no guarantees with pitchers, and until Cueto gets through the second season, there will be no finality with his decision. 

Aside from the fact that he really can’t make that decision, though, sources insist Cueto hasn’t made up his mind or even thought much about it. People familiar with his thinking continue to say the focus has been baseball all season long, from spring training through his last start. 

Cueto is said to be happy in San Francisco and he enjoys pitching in front of the crowd at AT&T Park. His biggest concern has been wins and losses, and in that respect, this has been a disappointing year for all involved. 

That record has brought the Giants to a crossroads, and this is where it gets interesting. The easy solution is to trade Cueto next month, avoid the opt-out situation entirely, and add prospects to a system lacking them. But, it’s complicated. The Giants do not intend a full teardown, and if they’re going for it again in 2018 — with their core of Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, Madison Bumgarner, etc. locked in, that’s the plan — they’ll want that second ace at the top of the rotation. And if Bumgarner doesn’t return to form after an injury, they’ll need Cueto’s presence. 

The Giants have until July 31 to decide what to do with Cueto. He has until three days after the World Series ends to decide what to do with his contract. Here in June, by all indications, those decisions haven’t been made.