SAN FRANCISCO The Giants have never won a Game 7 in their128 years of dancing on diamonds. Theyll hand a freshly rubbed baseball andall their hopes to Matt Cain as they seek to outreach the St. Louis Cardinalsfor the NL pennant on Monday.
Could there be a more perfect choice?
What a remarkable follow-up it would be: Barely four monthsafter throwing the first perfect game in franchise history, Cain could becomethe first Giant to punch them through a Game 7 glass ceiling that has createdso many bad memories over the years.
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The Giants are 0-5 in their history in Game 7s. Theirshortcomings include a roaring red surge at Anaheim in the 2002 World Series,Bobby Richardson gloving Willie McCoveys line drive in the 1962 World Series and, most applicably given their current foe, Jose Oquendos three-run knockoutshot against Atlee Hammaker in the 1987 NLCS at old Busch Stadium.
(Doubtful anyone remembers that 4-3, 12-inning loss to theWashington Senators in Game 7 of the 1924 World Series, or that 3-2, 10-inningloss to the Boston Red Sox to decide it all in 1912. But they had to be cryingat Coogans Bluff back then.)
Cain, for all his postseason experience over the past threeyears, has never participated in a Game 7. The only current Giant who has isRyan Theriot, who was 0 for 5 amid the Cardinals World Series-clinchingvictory over Texas last year.
So this will be a new experience -- but perhaps not adaunting one for a team that already has won five elimination games thispostseason.
The Cardinals are tested, too, having won all six of theirelimination games over the past two postseasons. They stormed back from a 6-0deficit to win their NLDS Game 5 at Washington, too.
So even if the Giants race out to an early lead againstright-hander Kyle Lohse and theyre confident they will, after letting himoff the hook in Game 3 -- dont expect them to feel comfortable at any point.
Cains job is simple: Keep the ball in the park. Hesallowed four home runs in his three postseason starts, accounting for six ofthe nine runs hes allowed overall. Matt Carpenters two-run shot made thedifference in Game 3 at Busch Stadium and Carpenter is likely to be in thelineup again, if Matt Hollidays lower back issue keeps him out of the lineup.
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Weather is likely to play a huge factor, too, as theforecast calls for intermittent showers and winds up to 20 mph. It might comedown to which team plays the cleanest afield.
Cain was if hed ever had to pitch in a winner-take-all gamebefore.
My senior clear of high school, to go to state (finals)against our rival school, Cain said. But that didn't work out so well forme.
Eleven days ago, when he prepared to pitch atCincinnati in the deciding Game 5 of the NLDS, Cain said he thought of that long-ago game for Houston Highin Germantown, Tenn.
I know it's a long time in between, he said. But I triedto use that, go out there and still have fun with it, enjoy it, not put toomuch on to it.
If the old high school frame of reference sounds familiar, it should. Madison Bumgarner caused all kinds of snickers two years ago when he compared Game 4 of the World Series to his North Carolina highschool district championship game.
"I don't remember if I was one of those guys who madesome fun about it," said Cain, smiling. "I probably did. But that's in a way, that's alot of times what this game is. You almost have to revert back when youwere in Little League because the game is about having fun. And sometimeswhen you put too much on to it, it kind of ruins the moment for you and youdon't end up playing as well as you'd like to if you put too much pressure onyourself.
The Giants have avoided being blinded by that pressure sofar, but Game 7 tends to focus light like a magnifying glass. Even underdarkening, stormy skies.
We all know what situation we're in, Cain said. So it'snot really something that has to be said. But I think it really gets theguys together and gets them thinking, Let's go out there and leave it outthere.Whatever happens, happens."