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 6: Bochy looks for improvement on bases

Giants spring training Day 6: Bochy looks for improvement on bases

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Giants always put together a long list of potential minor league free agents as the offseason approaches and they tend to go hard after two or three players from that group. One of the guys who got the hard sell over the winter was speedy outfielder Wynton Bernard, and the Giants were attractive for reasons beyond the departures of Angel Pagan and Gregor Blanco.

“I thought it was a good opportunity, and it also was a good fit for me because I’m from California,” Bernard said. 

Bernard is technically from Padres territory, but that gives him a connection to one of the men he’s hoping to impress. When Bernard was playing for Rancho Bernardo High, he often went up against a Poway High team that included a young Brett Bochy. Bruce never saw Bernard play because his job kept him away from most of Brett’s games, but he should see plenty of the 26-year-old this spring as the Giants look for a needed speed dimension. 

A big part of the staff overhaul was about making sure the Giants fare better on the bases. Roberto Kelly and Billy Hayes are out and Phil Nevin and Jose Alguacil are in. The Giants stole 79 bases last season, ranking eighth in the National League, and it’s not like they made up for the lack of small-ball by hitting the ball out of the park. Advanced metrics — tracked externally and also by the Giants — showed an inability to make an impact on the bases. According to BsR, an all-encompassing metric tracked by FanGraphs, the Giants were below average, ranking 17th in the majors. 

“We just want to be smarter baserunners,” Bochy said. “You always want to be aggressive. Everyone has the same philosophy — run hard — but it’s the old adage ‘strong to compete, smart to win.’”

A full season of Eduardo Nuñez will help, as would 162 games of Hunter Pence — who tends to make things happen on his own — and Joe Panik, one of the team’s smartest runners. Jimmy Rollins could provide speed off the bench, and Bernard hopes to make himself a viable option in the outfield. He stole 23 bags in 28 attempts last season for the Tigers’ Double-A and Triple-A teams and he stole 88 total bases the two seasons before 2016. 

The Giants know the kind of potential Bernard has, so early in the offseason he got a call telling him to hook up with fellow San Diego resident Vince Coleman, a legendary baserunner who would be joining the staff. The two worked out often in advance of spring training. 

“The Giants said he was in the area and I called him 20 minutes later,” Bernard said. “I feel like I can add a different dynamic with my speed.”

Bernard can play all three outfield spots and he sports a .360 on-base percentage in the minors. He’s likely ticketed for Triple-A for now, but a player with the same profile showed up in camp in 2012, and it wasn’t long before Gregor Blanco had locked up a roster spot. 

Whether Bernard is part of the mix, or it’s a Gorkys Hernandez or Nuñez or Kelby Tomlinson, Bochy knows he needs a little more athleticism and baserunning savvy in a division where the games are often won by one run. 

“We probably made more mistakes than we should have last year,” he said. “The numbers show it.”

CUETO UPDATE: The co-ace remains in the Dominican Republic, where he is tending to his father. The Giants don’t have a timetable for Cueto’s arrival, but he didn’t miss anything Saturday. The workout was banged because of rain. 

Cueto is at a hotel a few minutes from the club’s Santo Domingo facility and he has been working out there. The hope is that Cueto’s father soon gets well enough to travel to Arizona, where Cueto can continue to take care of him. 

NEW FACE: Slade Heathcott, a former Yankee, signed a minor league deal with the Giants on Friday. He will be in minor league camp this spring, not big league camp. The Giants liked his athleticism. 

QUOTABLE: “You can always look back, study it, learn from it … the second half, I think for everybody, you learn from it. Did we drop our guard? Hopefully it wasn’t complacency, which lets you think you have a bigger margin for error. Hopefully you learn from it.” — Bochy, when asked about the lesson learned last season. 

Report: Giants sign former Yankees top OF prospect Slade Heathcott

Report: Giants sign former Yankees top OF prospect Slade Heathcott

The Giants reportedly added to their outfield competition by signing former Yankees top prospect and 2009 first-round draft pick, outfielder Slade Heathcott. 

Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports was first to report the news

Heathcott, 26, has only appeared in 17 MLB games, all in the 2015 season for the Yankees. In his short promotion, the lefty batted .400 (10-for-25) with two home runs and two doubles. 

Through multiple stints in the minors, Heathcott has slashed .266/.343/.390 with 26 home runs for his career. 

San Francisco reportedly signed Heathcott to a minor league deal with a big league invite for spring training.