Giants entrust Cain to usher in another reign

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Giants entrust Cain to usher in another reign

Programming note: Tune in to SportsNet Central's OctoberQuest at 4 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area. We'll take you all the way up to first pitch at 5:07 p.m. with all the pregame news, stats, updates and analysis. It's Game 4 of the World Series!

DETROIT Matt Cain takes the mound for the Giants in Game 4of the World Series Sunday night, and central casting couldnt have found amore suitable man for this assignment.

Cain has done all right in these clinching games thispostseason, if you havent noticed. He started and won Game 5 of the NLDS inCincinnati and Game 7 of the NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals.

RELATED: San Francisco Giants 2012 World Series page

It will be a much different tenor at chilly Comerica Park, though. Its not a winner-take-all game.Far from it. The Giants are comfortably ahead and looking to complete a World Series sweep somethingthey havent done since that iconic 1954 series over the Cleveland Indians thatincluded Willie Mays indelible basket catch.

But dont expect any letdown from Cain, whose competitiongoes beyond a Detroit Tigers lineup capable of hurting him with the home runball at any time.

Cain is also locked in friendly competition with hisrotation mates, who have held the Tigers to a grand sum of one run over theirfirst three starts something that no major league team has done since the NewYork Giants Christy Mathewson and Iron Man Bill McGinnity in 1905.

Incredibly, Giants starters are 6-0 with a 0.47 ERA overtheir last six games. That helps explain how they havent trailed in 54consecutive innings a streak that began with Game 5 of the NLCS. Theyve ledat the conclusion of 44 of those innings.

And the Tigers havent even seen Cain the guy who threw aperfect game in June, received the honor to start the All-Star Game for theNational League in July and has been the Giants most consistent winner allseason.

Weve carried over what we had done in the last coupleseries into this series, and thats good, Cain said. Our guys are having funand were relaxed and focused on what we need to do. We know those guys on theother side are doing the same thing. Theyre going to be gunning for us.

Cain might be a better matchup for the Tigers because hesbeen a bit home run prone in the postseason. He allowed four homers over hisfirst three playoff starts, and although he held the Cards scoreless in hisfinal NLCS outing, it was apparent he had trouble keeping his fastball belowthe belt.

Giants officials privately worried about Cains heavyworkload, which stands at 242 13 innings especially after he threw 244 23innings in 2010. Cain is making his fifth postseason start; he made just threeduring the Giants run to the World Series title two seasons ago.

Thats one of the reasons that Giants manager Bruce Bochydidnt move Cain up to third in the World Series rotation. In a concession toRyan Vogelsongs crisper stuff, and the desire to get Cain one extra day ofrest, the Giants stayed with Vogelsong in Game 3.

The consequence: Itd be Vogelsong, not Cain, in a possibleGame 7. But Cain said he didnt bristle at being limited to one World Seriesstart.

No, I mean, I was going to take the ball whenever theywanted me to take it, and thats always been my way, Cain said. Whenever theywant me to pitch, Im going to take it. Take the ball, go out there and try tofind a way to win.

Itll start by keeping Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder inthe ballpark something the Giants have done extremely well while holding thetwin titans in the Tigers lineup to 3 for 17 with no extra-base hits and thesame number of RBI (one) that Barry Zito has in this series.

Cabrera is 1 for 6 against Cain, with a home run for hisonly hit. Fielder is a .278 hitter (5 for 18) with a couple of doubles but nohome runs. Omar Infante is the only other Tigers player with much experienceagainst Cain; hes also 5 for 18, all singles, and two strikeouts.

Itll be hard for Cain to match strikeouts with right-handerMax Scherzer, who finished second in that category among AL pitchers toteammate Justin Verlander. Itll be up to Scherzer to put this series inVerlanders hands for Game 5.

Scherzer has missed plenty of bats this postseason, strikingout 18 in just 11 innings. But surprise surprise, Marco Scutaro has just onestrikeout against him while going 4 for 9 in his career.

The Giants would do well to think back to July 2 of lastyear, when they faced Scherzer in an interleague game at Comerica Park andbattered him in a five-run first inning. Pablo Sandoval hit a two-run shot inthat game and Brandon Crawford followed with a three-run homer as the Giantswon in a 15-3 rout.

Scherzer has been a different pitcher this season,especially in the second half. He was 11-3 with a 2.53 ERA over his last 19starts, including 143 strikeouts in 117 13 innings. He credited an adjustmentwith his fastball that makes him able to locate it inside against left-handedhitters and away to right-handers. (Hes been especially tough on right-handedhitters, holding them to a .201 average vs. .292 against lefties.)

Once Im able to drive my fastball to the glove side, firstbase side for you guys, it sets up all my other pitches my slider, mychangeup, Scherzer said. Thats why Ive been effective of late.

The hour is very, very late for the Tigers now.

But every game you pitch in the World Series is a must-wingame, Scherzer said. So what better opportunity than the one I have?

The Giants feel just as enthused about the pitcher theyresending to the mound.

I think your great players seem to play better when theclub needs them, Bochy said. The higher the stakes, the more they do toelevate their game. Thats hitters and pitchers, and I certainly would put MattCain in that class."

Giants spring training Day 41: Hwang wins award, hits game-winner

Giants spring training Day 41: Hwang wins award, hits game-winner

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Jae-Gyun Hwang’s day started with an ovation from teammates who had selected Hwang as the Barney Nugent Award winner. It ended in style, too. 

Hwang’s walk-off single in the ninth gave the Giants an 8-7 win and raised his spring average to .308. Barring an injury or sudden change, Hwang will not make the team out of camp, but he’ll travel to San Francisco for the Bay Bridge Series next week and the Giants expect him back at AT&T Park soon.

“He can keep the award now,” Bochy joked after Hwang’s walk-off. “Good for him. Players love him, and the way he’s come out every day and the effort he puts in. He’s been inspiring with how hard he has gotten after it every day.”

The Barney Nugent Award is given to the player in his first big league camp “whose performance and dedication in Spring Training best exemplifies the San Francisco Giants spirit.” It is meaningful in large part because the voters are teammates, trainers and coaches. Hwang was called to the middle of the clubhouse by trainer Dave Groeschner on Saturday morning to accept the award. 

“With this being my first time coming to spring training to play baseball, I wanted to work hard and show that I belong here,” Hwang said through interpreter Mark Kim. “I think my teammates have noticed how hard I’ve worked for the team.”

The rest of the Giants have also noticed how easy Hwang has made the transition look. He said that, outside of learning a new strike zone, the adjustment hasn’t been a difficult one. He has four homers this spring, but doesn’t necessarily view that as a shining positive. Hwang said he wants to show more of an all-around game, especially on defense, and a stint in Triple-A Sacramento should provide that opportunity. 

If the rosters play out as expected, Hwang should see most of the time at third base in Triple-A. He can also play first, and he’s eager to show that he’s viable in left field. 

“I want to show I’m a versatile player,” he said. 

GAME RECAP: Chris Stratton was having a good spring, but he got knocked around by the Padres early … Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford both hit deep homers in their second game back from the WBC … Mark Melancon still has not allowed a run this spring … Hunter Pence's March slump got a bit deeper with an 0-for-3 ... Bryan Reynolds, last year’s top pick, entered as a pinch-runner and flew home from first on a Gorkys Hernandez double off the wall. 

BULLPEN BATTLES: In the front office’s perfect world, Josh Osich would be the one to take over for Will Smith, giving the team a hard-throwing lefty capable of neutralizing lefties and righties. It’s been an up-and-down spring for Osich, but he was filthy Saturday, striking out a pair in his lone inning. 

George Kontos looked even better in his inning, striking out the side. Kontos has allowed just five hits in 10 innings this spring, with 15 strikeouts. He seems forever stuck in that sixth-seventh range, but given his splits have been just about even over the years, maybe it’s time the Giants see what he can do in a more high-profile role. 

Cory Gearrin followed the previous two with a perfect eighth. Neil Ramirez struck out one and allowed one hit in the ninth. In 9 1/3 innings this spring, Ramirez has struck out 16 and allowed just five hits and two runs. He has a real shot to take someone’s job in the bullpen next week. 

ICYMI: The big news from this morning: Michael Morse will stick with the team and try to rehab/play his way back to the big leagues. And from the early afternoon, Johnny Cueto had a ton of fun with a 19-year-old he faced in a minor league game. 

NOTABLE: Bochy said that all of the players left in camp are slated to head home on the team flight Tuesday, but some guys have opt-outs on March 30, so moves are coming. This would seem a great sign for Aaron Hill, who is due a $100,000 retention bonus on Tuesday. Hill has slumped late in camp, but he’s still in position to make the team. Also noteworthy: Tyler Beede is scheduled to start Saturday’s game in Oakland. The Giants surely want to knock some MLB-stadium-nerves off before Beede heads down to Triple-A to wait for a call-up.

 

Cueto toys with young prospect in Giants minor league game

Cueto toys with young prospect in Giants minor league game

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — There is no way to really ramp up the intensity when an All-Star pitcher makes an appearance in minor league camp, so Johnny Cueto instead found a way to have a bit more fun. 

While getting his work in against A-ball hitters, Cueto had a prolonged, smile-filled battle with 19-year-old Jasrado Chisholm, one of the Diamondbacks’ top prospects. The sequence between Cueto and the shortstop from the Bahamas: 

  • Cueto just missed with a two-strike inside fastball, so he went right back to the same spot, freezing Chisholm, who smiled and nodded at Cueto, who laughed back. 
  • The next time up, Chisholm took two vicious hacks, trying to crank a homer onto Hayden Road. He missed both breaking balls by about a foot. 
  •  Before the third pitch, Cueto yelled something at Chisholm and smiled. “I was telling him to keep his eye on the ball,” Cueto said. “Because every time he was swinging, he was taking his eye off the ball.”
  •  The advice worked. Chisholm hung in on the third pitch, lining a single to left-center. Cueto laughed and pointed his glove at the teenager. He promptly picked him off of first base. “He probably doesn’t know I have a quick move,” he said. “I was having fun with a kid who wanted to actually hit against me.”

Nobody has more fun than Cueto, even on a sun-baked minor league field. He capped his day by standing in for an at-bat of his own, and he stood and watched as a young Diamondback struck him out.

The work on the mound was just what was needed: 7 innings, 85 pitches, 10 strikeouts, 0 runs. Cueto, who missed the opening weeks of camp, is ready for the season.

“I feel strong,” he said. “I feel really good."