Bochy 'being cautious' with Cain: 'You don't put a guy at risk'
Giants' 2002 first-round pick Matt Cain had the shortest start of his career, while their 2009 first-round pick, Zack Wheeler, turned in his longest. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
SAN FRANCISCO -- For the second time in as many starts, Giants ace Matt Cain gave up more earned runs than he recorded outs.
Rock bottom got lower for the Giants, who were swept at home by the New York Mets after a 7-2 loss Wednesday that did nothing to convince anyone the team is showing signs of life. The Giants are losers of 14 of their last 16 games and are 10 games under .500. They have exactly one victory by a starting pitcher not named Madison Bumgarner in their last 29 games, and their offense is nowhere to be found.
For the first time in his career Matt Cain failed to pitch out of the first inning, suffering a demoralizing loss when his team needed him most -- in his final start before the All-Star break.
Since May 14, the Giants have been the worst team in baseball, posting a record of 17-35 (.327).
Starting pitcher report
July 10, 2013 marked the worst -- and shortest -- start of Matt Cain's storied career.
The Giants' 2013 Opening Day starter has won two World Series, made three All-Star teams and pitched a perfect game, but what he managed to do Wednesday was a first. He failed to record the first three outs of the game.
The two-thirds of an inning pitched represented the shortest outing of Cain's nine-year career, and it was in large part due to his command. He threw just half of his 36 pitches in the strike zone, walking three in the troublesome inning.
It makes a pair of consecutive forgettable outings for Cain, who had one of his worst starts of the season in his last start. He lasted a then-season low 2 1/3 innings in a 10-2 loss to the Dodgers on Friday.
After posting a 2.03 ERA on the shores of McCovey Cove last season, Cain now owns the worst home ERA among qualifying National League pitchers at 6.11.
Cain's final line: 2/3 IP, 2 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, K, 36 P, L.
Mike Kickham might have been surprised to be warming up in the first inning, but he had to shake any unpreparedness when he got the call with his team already trailing by three and runners fastened to the corners.
Kickham pitched admirably on a day that seemed destined to tax manager Bruce Bochy's already-taxed bullpen, eating up 5 1/3 innings on 94 pitches.
He got the Giants to the seventh inning, but ran into trouble in the fifth and sixth that rendered the game's outcome a foregone conclusion. With two outs in the fifth, Marlon Byrd's second home run in as many days followed a single by Ike Davis and the Mets made it a 5-0 game. Then in the sixth, John Buck, pitcher Zack Wheeler and Daniel Murphy all hit doubles, plating two to make it 7-0.
George Kontos was called on to pitch the seventh and dispatched the Mets in order.
Jeremy Affeldt, a day after his three runs allowed factored prominently into the Giants' 10-6 loss, was sent out for the eighth. Affeldt entered Wednesday 0-3 with a 7.15 ERA over his last 13 games, but struck out one in a 1-2-3 eighth inning.
Javier Lopez pitched around a single and an error in the top of the ninth.
At the plate
It was an uninspired Giants lineup that stepped to the plate for the first time against Zack Wheeler, already trailing 3-0 with their ace in the showers.
Wheeler showed why he was a highly-touted prospect in the Giants' farm system for years, as the 23-year-old power righty mixed fastballs in the mid-90s with a change-up in the high-80s and a curveball in the high-70s to keep the Giants' bats quiet for seven strong innings.
San Francisco didn't get a hit until Pablo Sandoval's broken-bat, bloop single in the fourth, nor did it get a runner to second base until the sixth.
Wheeler's shutout was spoiled in his final inning, and he had a lot to do with it. He put Brandon Belt on second base with a walk and a wild pitch, and Brandon Crawford came through with just his fourth hit in his last 38 at-bats (.105) with runners in scoring position.
After striking out in the first, Belt was one of the few who put together a solid day at the plate. He drew two walks and hit a ninth-inning triple, scoring both of the Giants' runs.
The skids continued. Leadoff hitter Gregor Blanco went 0-for-3 before he was lifted for a pinch hitter and is now 6-for-41 (.146) over his past 11 games. Sandoval went 1-for-3 and is 6-for-his-last-54 (.111). And Hunter Pence, looking to bolster his case for the 2013 All-Star Game Final Vote, did not. He entered the day in third behind the Braves' Freddie Freeman and the Dodgers' Yasiel Puig for the final National League roster spot, and his 0-for-4 day didn't help. Pence is now 3-for-his-last-36 (.083).
After losing a seven-pitch battle to Wheeler on a second-inning strikeout, Pence was retired three more times on just three pitches.
Kensuke Tanaka recorded his second MLB hit in his second career game, lashing a first-pitch fastball into the hole between short and third that drew the crowd's biggest reaction of the game.
Wheeler was strong on the mound, limiting the Giants to three hits in 101 pitches, but San Francisco was equally inept at the plate. Under normal circumstances, his dominance over the team that traded him for what turned out to be a half-season rental of Carlos Beltran would be a bigger story, but Wheeler may have been able to match Wednesday's effort as a 20-year-old with the Augusta Greenjackets, where he began his professional career with the Giants in 2010.
In the field
Buster Posey committed a throwing error that led to the Mets' first run of the game, just 11 pitches in. Eric Young led off with a walk and, when he attempted to steal second, Posey's throw sailed wide into center field.
Posey has now allowed 46 stolen bases this season, the highest ceded by any National League catcher.
Elsewhere, the Giants appeared uninvested defensively. Brandon Crawford bobbled three routine grounders, earning an error in the ninth. Gregor Blanco watched a pair of balls go over his head and Brandon Belt mishandled an easy ground ball hit right at him in the sixth inning.
The defensive body language displayed Wednesday told you everything you needed to know -- this team is not feeling it.
The Giants announced a paid attendance of 41,679, their 210th consecutive regular season home sellout. But if the team keeps turning in uninspired efforts, it's a streak that might not make it through end of the season.
Following their first 1-5 homestand since June of 2010, the Giants head south four a four-game series in San Diego before their first half of the season mercifully comes to an end. San Francisco can still enter the All-Star break with some semblance of momentum if Madison Bumgarner (9-5, 3.05) can start the series strong against Padres right-hander Jason Marquis (9-4, 3.79). No matter what team he is with, Marquis has always seemed to pitch well against the Giants, who he owns a career 7-5 record against to go along with a 2.93 ERA.