Cain says he'd be pumped to start home opener

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Cain says he'd be pumped to start home opener

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- If the Giants skip Ryan Vogelsong's first turn through the rotation, then Matt Cain would receive the game ball and the starting assignment for the Giants' home opener April 13 against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

It would be fitting, given what the fan base thinks of him -- and that this could be his last season as a Giant.

Whether he signs a lucrative long-term extension before the opener or not, a wide-eyed Cain said he'd relish the honor.

"That's what's great about our park," Cain said. "The fans are there every day. Even weekday games, it's a packed house. They love baseball and it's shown with ... the attendance."

Cain will be a free agent after this season and prefers not to let negotiations for an extension leak past opening day. He hasn't started a season opener as a Giant, but he's gotten the home opener once -- in 2008, when he was beaten 8-4 by the San Diego Padres and Greg Maddux.

"The first time I did it, it was a little intense," Cain said. "You're not used to all that extra stuff that goes on. You have to give yourself extra time."

Cain has some experience with that, though. Last year, he started the second home game -- which was preceded by the World Series rings ceremony.

Cain got one step closer to the regular season by throwing five shutout innings against an Oakland A's Triple-A squad at Indian School Park on Monday. While the rest of their teammates enjoyed their only day off on the Cactus League Schedule, Cain threw to Hector Sanchez and pitched around some hard contact while throwing strikes.

He allowed four hits (three doubles), struck out four and didn't walk a batter. Cain gave up consecutive doubles in the fourth inning, but remarkably, the A's failed to score. Heavy legged catcher Derek Norris, who also doubled off Tim Lincecum two days earlier, got a bad read and ended up getting thrown out at the plate on a strong relay from center fielder Francisco Peguero to second baseman Charlie Culberson to Sanchez at the plate. The catcher blocked the plate as Norris awkwardly slidbumped into him, then finally picked up the ball on the dirt and tagged him out.

"I think it caught both of those guys off guard," said Cain, who appreciated Sanchez's efforts.

Cain said he threw all his pitches and approached the start like he was trying to get outs rather than work on specific locations.

"The last start, I wasn't throwing in to lefties that well," he said. "Today, it was better."

Tim Lincecum is scheduled to start the Giants' season opener April 6 at Arizona -- his fourth consecutive opening-day assignment. Barry Zito started the season openers in 2007 and '08 and Jason Schmidt held that honor before that.

Vogelsong is building arm strength after missing time because of a strained lower back; the Giants have a day off in the middle of their season-opening road trip to Arizona and Colorado, so they could get by with four starters until the ninth game of the season, on April 15.

Giants get blanked by Braves, now have lowest-scoring team in majors

Giants get blanked by Braves, now have lowest-scoring team in majors

SAN FRANCISCO — Over in Cleveland earlier Friday, Brandon Moss hit a three-run homer for the visiting team and five other players chipped in a pair of hits. The Royals had six runs, which meant that when Jim Johnson closed the Giants out a few hours later, what has seemed true all season became officially true. The Giants have the lowest-scoring lineup in the majors.

At 3.32 runs per game, they have dipped below the equally-disappointing Royals (3.38). They are capable at the moment of making any pitching staff look dominant. A 2-0 shutout was the first of the year for the Braves, who previously had just two games this season where they allowed fewer than two runs. 

“Six runs in (the last) four games … I thought we would come home and get some rips in tonight, but it didn’t happen,” Bruce Bochy said. 

The manager’s frustration showed late in this one. After the only rally of the game — a two-run single by opposing pitcher Jaime Garcia — Bochy took his cap off and rubbed his forehead. He dipped his head and briefly stood as if he was going to fall asleep on the rail. The bats were equally still. 

The Giants had just four hits, all of them singles against Garcia, who is a nice pitcher but hardly one of the league’s best. One was an infield single by Eduardo Nuñez, another a single through Garcia’s five-hole, and a third a generous ruling by the official scorekeeper. 

“It comes down to, you’ve got to get some hits and create opportunities, and we’re not doing it very often,” Bochy said. “It’s just a matter of guys getting somewhat hot. We did, we had some success, and we won some games. The thing you like to see is some good cuts and I didn’t think we got enough of those tonight.”

That run, which spanned the last homestand and small parts of two road trips, has come to a screeching halt. The Giants have lost five of six. It seems silly to scoreboard-watch in May, especially when a team is playing like this, but it’s worth noting that the teams the Giants eventually need to catch keep winning. They fell 12 games back of the Rockies and 11 back of the streaking Diamondbacks. They are 9 1/2 back of the Dodgers, who might be the best team in the whole league. 

Matt Cain did his part to allow the Giants to keep pace. He got beat just once in seven sharp innings. The Giants intentionally walked Dansby Swanson to get to Garcia, who bounced a single into left. Brandon Belt had a play at the plate, but his throw was short and hit the runner. A second run scored. 

“That’s tough,” Cain said. “(Garcia) was throwing the ball really good and that’s what it comes down to, you’re looking for that one hit and he did it. He’s a good hitter. We’ve seen it in St. Louis. But it definitely is tough when the pitcher does that … it just stinks on my part to give up a hit to the opposing pitcher.”

Instant Analysis: Giants bats silenced, losing streak now at four games

Instant Analysis: Giants bats silenced, losing streak now at four games

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — The return to AT&T Park was a huge boost to Matt Cain, who has wild home-road splits this season, but it did predictable things to an already-limp Giants offense. 

The Giants entered the night as the lowest-scoring team in the National League and they got blanked 2-0 by Jaime Garcia and the Braves. Garcia out-dueled Cain and provided the only offense of the night, as well. The Giants have dropped five of six.

Here are five things to know from AT&T Park, where they keep having Star Wars Night but they’ve never once celebrated Super Troopers … 

--- Cain entered the seventh with a 0.94 ERA at home this season, but the opposing pitcher busted him. With one on and two outs, the Giants intentionally walked Dansby Swanson to get to Garcia, a career .145 hitter. He bounced a single into shallow left and it looked like Brandon Belt had a play at the plate, but his throw home hit the runner. That allowed Swanson to race home for a 2-0 lead. 

--- Cain’s final line: seven innings, one earned run, one walk, three strikeouts. Yep, that’s a Caining.

--- Justin Ruggiano is here for the opportunity he was given in the sixth. Ruggiano has always crushed lefties, and Bruce Bochy put him behind Buster Posey on Friday night. The Braves intentionally walked Posey to load the bases for Ruggiano, who grounded out to third. Even the platoon splits are failing the Giants. 

--- If you need a little perspective on Christian Arroyo’s struggles, look across the field. Swanson, the former No. 1 overall pick, is batting .198. The shortstop slashed .302/.361/.442 as a rookie but his numbers are way down across the board, and he’s nearly two years older than Arroyo. These things take time. Having said that, Arroyo’s hole is pretty deep. He’s hitless in his last 21 at-bats after an 0 for 3.

--- There were three no-pitch intentional walks. I hope you used the extra ninety seconds wisely.